Turkish, US delegations meet to mend strained ties
A Turkish delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal has held key meetings in Washington Aug. 8 to resolve the current crisis in relations after the U.S. slapped sanctions on Turkey over the detention of pastor Andrew Brunson.
The first meeting started at 11:00 (EDT) and took one hour.
Önal, who sat down with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, did not speak to reporters before or after the visit.
In a brief statement, the U.S. State Department said only that the pair "discussed a range of bilateral matters including Pastor Brunson."
The Turkish delegation also met with U.S. Treasury officials on Aug. 8.
Officials from Turkey’s justice, finance and foreign ministries make up the nine-member delegation, which traveled to Washington after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a phone call on Aug. 6.
“It’s certainly a good thing that the secretary and the foreign minister were able to have a phone call yesterday,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told journalists.
“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.”
Turkish, American defense ministers discuss Syria
Turkish and American defense ministers Hulusi Akar and James Mattis held a phone call late Aug. 7 to discuss an ongoing bilateral agreement on the Manbij city in Syria and the fight against terrorism, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
Turkey and the U.S. are implementing a deal brokered in early June for the withdrawal of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij with the objective of clearing the area from the group in the first week of September.
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.
Washington is also reviewing Turkey’s duty-free access to U.S. markets, while Ankara has imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to American steel and aluminum tariffs. The U.S. review could affect $1.7 billion of Turkish exports.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Aug. 4 that Turkey had decided to freeze the assets of the U.S. justice and interior secretaries in Turkey in retaliation, but nothing has been done to this end yet.
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. “I’m very hopeful that we will make progress on that in the days and weeks ahead,” he added.