Reports on Brunson’s release a U.S. strategy to put pressure on Ankara - Hürriyet

Reports earlier this week on expected release of a U.S. pastor, who has been detained for almost two years in Turkey, was a strategy of the U.S. government to increase the pressure on Ankara, Hürriyet newspaper’s Washington representative Cansu Çamlıbel said on Saturday. 

Pastor Andrew Brunson is at the centre of a recent diplomatic spat between Turkey and the United States. The U.S. government imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled metal tariffs last month, after a Turkish court, instead of releasing Brunson, moved him from prison to house arrest.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Brunson is expected to be released in his next hearing on Oct. 12 and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed a similar expectation the same day. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited New York earlier this week to attend UN General Assembly. For the first time since he was elected as the president of Turkey in 2014, Erdoğan has left the city without having an official meeting with the U.S. President or Vice President.

However, Erdoğan and the U.S. President Donald Trump briefly met ahead of Erdogan's address to UN General Assembly on Tuesday, which Erdoğan described as a “short encounter”. 

“He [Trump] told me ‘see you later’, but I did not attend his banquet in the evening. You know, family photos are taken during those events,” Erdoğan told Turkish reporters on Thursday. 

Çamlıbel on Saturday said that Erdoğan’s visit to New York shattered the hopes of those in Turkey who thought the “pastor crisis” could be solved during a meeting between Erdoğan and Trump. 

The Turkish side explored the possibility of a meeting between two leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and got a negative reply from the U.S. officials, Çamlıbel said. 

The U.S. side, during diplomatic contacts in recent weeks, has repeatedly given Ankara the message that there was no reason for a meeting between two leaders, unless Turkey accepted to release Brunson unconditionally, Çamlıbel said.

Çamlıbel said that she had tried to confirm the report of the WSJ about Brunson’s possible release from Turkish sources visiting New York, but senior officials she had talked to had not had any knowledge on the matter.

“The Turkish delegation believed that the reports on Brunson’s release was the tactic of the U.S. side to increase the pressure on Turkey,” she said. 

Çamlıbel also said that after her conversations with the Turkish officials, she had the impression that Brunson’s release on Oct. 12 would not be possible. “Moreover, I also heard that some members of the Turkish government defend a more radical approach like sending Pastor Brunson once again to prison,” she said.