Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said he’s hopeful that Turkey will release American pastor Andrew Brunson in the coming days, and suggested that the case won’t jeopardize the broader alliance between the countries even as tensions continue to rise.
“I made clear that it is well past time that Pastor Brunson be freed, be permitted to return to the United States and the others being held by Turkey also,” Pompeo said in Singapore on Saturday, a day after he met Turkey’s foreign minister on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations security forum. “I’m hopeful that in the coming days that we will see that occur.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has vowed to retaliate after President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the country’s interior and justice ministers for refusing to release Brunson, who is accused of terrorism and espionage-related charges. While Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest, officials have given no indication he’ll be released anytime soon.
The U.S. has been increasingly concerned about Erdogan’s push for better ties with Russia and Iran, and the two counties have repeatedly traded barbs over the U.S. refusal to turn over an exiled cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed military coup in 2016. At the same time, Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance and has played a crucial role in the fight against the Islamic State.Pompeo pledges nearly $300mln in security aid to Southeast Asia