Pence destroyed the US-Turkey prisoner swap deal - pro-government media

Turkish authorities were surprised by U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats yesterday, as they have been negotiating a deal with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a swap between the U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson detained in Turkey and Turkish Banker Hakan Atilla prisoned in the United States, the Daily Sabah newspaper reported on Thursday. 

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday that the United States would impose sanctions on Turkey if Brunson’s detention continued, though a Turkish court had moved Brunson to house arrest on Wednesday, which according to Secretary Pompeo was a welcome progress. 

“Turkish officials were puzzled. For months, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) Chief Hakan Fidan have been negotiating a deal with Secretary Pompeo on Brunson. Turkish officials wanted Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a former deputy general manager of Halkbank, who was sentenced in New York for violating Iran sanctions in May,” Daily Sabah said. 

According to Turkish sources, Ankara and Washington had agreed that Atilla could be moved to a Turkish prison where he would serve his remaining sentence and there wouldn't be additional prosecution of the bank, while Turks, on their end, could deport Brunson.

Sources in Washington told Daily Sabah that threatening Turkey was the idea of Pence, who wants to play the evangelist card in the U.S. mid-term elections. 

"I bet Evangelist Pence was pissed that, his counterpart Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım is out and no one was asking Pence anything anymore. He probably wanted to be an actor in this affair and somehow convinced his boss as well," a Turkish official told Daily Sabah. 

Turkish officials denied the reports in the American media, that Trump had brokered Turkish citizen EbruÖzkan's release in Israel in return of Brunson. "Yes, it is true that Erdoğan asked Trump's help for Özkan. But this had nothing to do with Brunson. Those two were separate topics of discussion," Daily Sabah quoted a Turkish official. 

According to a Turkish senior official, Trump is risking the loss of a friendly country, by following Pence’s idea."Had he listened to Pompeo, he could have welcomed Brunson in Joint Base Andrews and become a real hero for his constituency. He really missed a 'real opportunity,’” the official said. 

Turkish officials think that if Trump returns to negotiations by empowering Pompeo, the two countries may have a chance to resolve the crisis, Daily Sabah said
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