Turkey sends delegation to US to discuss crisis
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A Turkish delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal left for Washington Aug. 7 to resolve the current crisis in relations after the U.S. slapped sanctions against Turkey over the detention of pastor Andrew Brunson, while the two sides’ foreign ministers held a phone call on the same day, in a sign of wanting to put diplomacy back on track.
Officials from Turkey’s justice, finance and foreign ministries make up the nine-member delegation going to Washington, according to diplomatic sources who asked to remain anonymous. The meeting is expected to take place on Aug. 8.
"We can confirm that a Turkish delegation will meet with State Department officials today," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Aug. 8. "The meeting will be led by our deputy secretary John Sullivan," she added.
The Turkish delegation will also meet U.S. Treasury officials.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had a phone conversation. "It's certainly a good thing that the Secretary and the foreign minister were able to have a phone call yesterday," Nauert said.
"The kind of progress we want is for Pastor Brunson, our locally employed staff and other American citizens to be brought home. That's the progress we're looking for and we're not there just yet," she added.
Turkey and the U.S. are currently experiencing rocky relations after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül over the continued detention of Brunson, who faces terrorism charges in Turkey.
It was earlier reported that Turkey and the U.S. reached a preliminary agreement on some issues after the crisis. According to sources speaking to daily Hürriyet, the agreement covers “certain subjects” and a Turkish delegation is scheduled to visit Washington DC in the coming days to “precede” the talks.
The U.S. embassy in Ankara on Aug. 7 stressed the friendship with Turkey despite ongoing tensions. “The United States continues to be a firm friend and ally of Turkey despite current tensions. Our countries have a vibrant economic relation,” the embassy said in a tweet on Aug. 7.
The embassy also refuted claims reported by a number of media outlets in Turkey suggesting that an “American official” predicted that a U.S. dollar would soon be equal to 7 Turkish Liras.
Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of İzmir, is at the center of one of the most serious crises in relations between the NATO allies in years.
The pastor was moved to house arrest last month after nearly two years in jail on terror-related charges, but the change only increased tensions.
The U.S. responded to the failure to fully free Brunson by hitting the two Turkish ministers with sanctions, prompting Ankara to announce a similar measure.
Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo held a meeting in Singapore just two days after the U.S. imposed the sanctions and agreed to work on keeping diplomatic channels open despite deepening tensions.
Çavuşoğlu said his meeting with Pompeo in Singapore was “constructive,” while adding that the two countries had to sit down and discuss a roadmap to solve the problem. “The U.S. itself needs a positive agenda.
I believe we can overcome the current situation through compromise, diplomacy, negotiation and good faith, but not by language of threatening. There is an intense process ahead of us,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey remains a key NATO ally, despite the recent tensions, Pompeo said in a separate statement, noting that he was hopeful there would be progress toward freeing the American pastor.
Pompeo told reporters on Aug. 4 that he had a “constructive conversation” with Çavuşoğlu.
“I made it clear that it is well past time that pastor Brunson should be freed and be permitted to return to the United States, and the others being held by Turkey also similarly must be freed as well,” he said.
“I’m very hopeful that we will make progress on that in the days and weeks ahead,” he added.