Turkey dismisses US ‘threats, sanctions’ over detained pastor

Turkey and the US failed to resolve the diplomatic standoff over a detained pastor on Friday, with Ankara’s foreign minister warning that sanctions and threats would not work.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said ahead of talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu that Washington was “very serious” in demanding the release of Andrew Brunson.

“The Turks were on notice that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they´ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we’re very serious,” Pompeo said in Singapore.

“Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government,” he added. “They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people.”

Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was moved to house arrest last week following nearly two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups.

The US has hit two top Turkish officials with sanctions over his detention, prompting Ankara to threaten reciprocal measures.

“We have said from the start that the other side’s threatening language and sanctions will not get any result. We repeated this today,” Cavusoglu said in televised remarks from Singapore where he and Pompeo are attending a regional security summit.

Brunson, whose trial began in the spring, faces up to 35 years in jail if convicted.

Two Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey are also currently in jail on terror charges and another is under house arrest, while several Americans have been caught up in the crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup.

The State Department has said it continues to favour a diplomatic approach, but spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters earlier this week that the pastor’s detention “has gone on for too long”.

On Friday Nauert said Pompeo and Cavusoglu had a “constructive conversation” and “agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries”.

Cavusoglu also said the talks were “extremely constructive” but warned in comments to Turkish media that all the issues would not be solved “after one meeting”.