A Wall Street Journal report claimed that an offer by Turkey to the United States of releasing detained American pastor Andrew Brunson if the US investigations against Turkish bank Halkbank is halted was turned down by the Trump administration.
The proposal, according to the report, was dropping off of terrorism charges against the American pastor by the Turkish authorities in exchange of the US government wiping off a fine against the bank which totals up to billions of dollars. The report quoted a senior White House official saying that the offer was not accepted.
“A real NATO ally wouldn’t have arrested Brunson in the first place,” the official reportedly told the Journal.
Espionage and terror-related charges had been slapped against Brunson by Turkey when he was first detailed in December of 2016. Before that he was accused of aiding a group that allegedly was behind the coordinated of a failed military coup in Turkey in July 2016. The accusations have been vehemently denied by both Brunson and the U.S.
It has bene quite some time now that the US has been pressurizing Turkey to release the pastor. Last month. Turkey’s justice and interior ministers were sanctioned by the Trump administration and earlier this month, the tariffs on steel and aluminum were doubled. The aim of these sanctions is to pressure Turkey for the release of the pastor.
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
The Turkish economy was severely hit by the standoff with the US. The Turkish currency lira for the first time slid below the 6 mark against the US dollar in its history and dropped to 6.4 against the dollar from 4.7 before the standoff.
Nothing would be paid by the US for the release of the pastor, tweeted Trump on Thursday last week putting further pressure on eth Turkish government.
“Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.
The Turkish government had been also pressurized earlier this month on the issue by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said that the seriousness of the White House about the immediate and unconditional release of Brunson and others was reflected by the sanctions Turkish officials.
“The Turks were on notice that the clock had run out and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they’ll see this for what it is: a demonstration that we’re very serious,” he said. “Brunson needs to come home as do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government.”
“Pretty straightforward. They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people,” he added, referring to several other detained local employees of the U.S. diplomatic missions in the Turkey.
(Adapted from FoxNews.com)