Pompeo suggests US may lift Turkey sanctions linked to pastor

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Washington may lift sanctions imposed on Turkey during the dispute over its detention of a US pastor.

Pompeo’s remarks came on Wednesday after his talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on an unscheduled trip linked to the probe into the disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We’ll have a decision on that shortly but some of the sanctions that were put in place were directly connected to Pastor Brunson and there’s a logic to now removing those as well,” Pompeo told reporters as his plane refuelled in Brussels, Belgium.

In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also met Pompeo on Wednesday, did not address the issue of the Brunson-related sanctions directly, but declared that any such US measures were “nonsense”.

“We agree that in our relations, there should be no sanctions like this and other issues,” he said. “As long as there are sanctions, relations can go nowhere.”

Frayed ties

US President Donald Trump‘s administration imposed sanctions targeting Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in response to Turkey’s arrest and prosecution of US pastor Andrew Brunson on terror charges.

In all, Brunson was held for two years and was convicted and sentenced earlier this month of espionage and aiding terror groups, only to be quickly released on the basis of good behaviour and time served.

Cavusoglu (C) met Pompeo (R) in Ankara on Wednesday [Cem Ozdel/Anadolu]

Trump hailed the release, which has been seen as a opening for Ankara and Washington to restore frayed ties.

Lira crisis

The introduction of the sanctions in August prompted a currency crisis in Turkey. Turkish lira has fallen about 35 percent this year, but there are some signs of recovery.

Brunson’s release has helped push the lira to its firmest in two months. And after Pompeo’s remarks on Wednesday, the currency stood at 5.55 against the US dollar, a gain in value of more than two percent.

Also on Wednesday, the lawyer for Brunson said he had appealed to a Turkish court against his client’s sentence.

The verdict was appealed because it “contravened the law and procedures”, a copy of the application seen by Reuters showed.

The prosecutor in the case also challenged the verdict, citing the same reason, a copy of that application showed.

Both documents showed that detailed appeals will be prepared once they receive the court verdict in writing.

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