Aug 17 2018

Erdoğan's last-minute demands scuppered Brunson deal - FT

The current breakdown in U.S.-Turkish relations is the result of a failed deal for the release of U.S. citizens that broke down when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan demanded additional concessions at the last minute, reported journalist Katrina Manson in a Financial Times article.

U.S. officials had worked for months on a deal to resolve several of the issues fueling tensions with Turkey, including the U.S. support for Syrian-Kurdish militant groups opposed to Turkey and the Turkish imprisonment of as many as 20 U.S. citizens and employees, Manson wrote.

The officials had been in touch with several Turkish intermediaries who had sought a rapprochement with the United States since last December, according to the FT article.

Talks were conducted with input from Matthew Bryza, a former U.S. diplomat resident in Turkey, and Ali Ihsan Arslan, a politician with ties to Erdoğan, Manson quoted three people familiar with the matter as saying.

The negotiated deal had reportedly reached a stage where U.S. officials were on standby with a passport and flight tickets to the United States for Andrew Brunson, the U.S. pastor imprisoned on terror and espionage charges in Turkey whose case has become the focus of U.S.-Turkish relations.

However, the deal broke down at the last minute when Erdoğan asked the United States to drop its expected fine on Halkbank, the Turkish state-run bank at the centre of a $1bn Iran sanction-breaking scheme that the bank’s executive, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, received a 32-month jail sentence for in January.

 “(U.S. President Donald) Trump took personal offence over the case after he personally intervened to secure the release of a Turkish woman held in Israel, and he supported an investigation on home soil into whether the US should extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric who Ankara holds responsible for a coup attempt in 2016,” Manson wrote.

The deal’s breakdown saw Brunson sent to house arrest rather than returned home, while Atilla also lost his chance to return home. High-level U.S. officials including attorney general Jeff Sessions had agreed to return Atilla to Turkey to serve the rest of his sentence, Manson’s article revealed.

Since the deal’s breakdown, U.S.-Turkish relations have taken a considerable downturn, with the two presidents engaged in a war of words and tit-for-tat tariff hikes.

The Turkish lira took a severe hit from the tensions, dropping to a record low on Monday morning of 7.2 to the dollar and sparking fears of a contagious currency crisis.

Click for full article