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Pompeo presses Turkey's top diplomat to release pastor held for failed coup

By
Ed Adamczyk
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a conference in Singapore Friday. Beforehand, he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavosuglu about seeking the release of U.S. minister Andrew Brunson, who's linked to the failed 2016 military coup. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a conference in Singapore Friday. Beforehand, he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavosuglu about seeking the release of U.S. minister Andrew Brunson, who's linked to the failed 2016 military coup. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of State

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Turkey's foreign minister Friday for the release of a detained American pastor accused in the country's failed military coup two years ago.

Pompeo met with diplomat Melvut Cavusoglu in Singapore on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian security conference. The Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, was arrested in December 2016 and charged with terrorism and espionage charges related to the coup attempt months earlier.

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After months of unsuccessful negotiations, the United States this week responded with new sanctions against Ankara over Brunson's case. Friday, Pompeo said the fiscal penalties indicate how seriously the Trump administration is taking the pastor's ongoing detention.

"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," Pompeo said before arriving in Singapore. "We consider this one of the many issues that we have with the Turks."

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The U.S. Treasury's sanctions this week delayed Turkey's acquisition of two U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, the first of a planned fleet of about 100 -- a move criticized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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A Turkish judge this week allowed Brunson, a North Carolina native who's lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, to move from jail to house arrest.

Three Turkish employees of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul have also been detained. The United States also has disagreements with Turkey over Ankara's military activity in northern Syria and its plans to purchase a sophisticated air defense system from Russia.

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The talks between Pompeo and Cavosoglu did not lead to an immediate breakthrough.

"They agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Erdogan said his government would not back down in the dispute and would "go its own way," if necessary. Ankara also announced intentions to retaliate with its own sanctions against the United States.

RELATED Health concern moves U.S. pastor to house arrest in Turkey

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