Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

  • Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

Trump administration cautiously optimistic pastor jailed in Turkey will be freed

United States officials believe they're on the verge of securing the release of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor jailed by Turkey on accusations he helped plot a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Two unnamed senior administration officials and a third person briefed told NBC that the USA and Turkey reached a deal to secure Mr. Brunson's return home.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years and ran a protestant church in Izmir, was detained in October 2016 and accused of helping those responsible for the failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The Trump administration, however, isn't fully confident that Turkey will follow through with the Brunson agreement because Ankara was close to a commitment to release him several months ago but did not", the outlet reported Thursday, citing a senior administration official.

Finally, after an excruciatingly long wait of nearly two years, it appears the incarceration of United States pastor Andrew Brunson will finally come to an end.

If Turkey follows through on the purported agreement, that economic pressure will be eased, the United States officials told NBC News.

The court's decision failed to improve tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Washington sanctioned two Turkish officials and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Leaked reports by Turkish officials allege the Saudis lured Khashoggi to its Istanbul consulate, where they then murdered him and disposed of his dismembered body.

Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

He has been forced to remain in Turkey for the past two years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has led a sustained diplomatic effort to have the pastor released, recently declared that Brunson "should have been released last month", and that he expects "he could be released this month", according to the Financial Times.

Four U.S. Senators, including Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, released a joint statement saying Brunson's release would "help improve U.S. -Turkey relations for the long-term".

However, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Thursday, dialed back expectations that Brunson's release is imminent.

"We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext", Erdogan said. "The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources", the President declared.

The U.S. continues to refuse Ankara's demands that the cleric Gulen be extradited.

"The Khashoggi affair adds a new variable to a complex question the USA and Turkey had already found quite hard to solve".