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US may lift Turkey sanctions after US pastor's release: Pompeo

Freed US pastor Andrew Brunson at Oval Office [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 October, 2018

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The secretary of state's comments are a sign of thawing relations between the two NATO allies.

The US may now lift sanctions it imposed on Turkey following the release of US pastor Andrew Brunson, a dispute that had put the two NATO allies at loggerheads.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement after talks in Ankara. 

"We'll have a decision on that shortly but some of the sanctions that were put in place were directly connected to Pastor Brunson and there's a logic to now removing those as well," Pompeo told reporters as his plane refuelled in Belgium.

President Donald Trump's administration imposed sanctions targeting Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in response to Turkey's arrest and prosecution of US pastor Andrew Brunson on terror charges.

The pastor had been accused of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the 2016 attempted coup, along with ties to the banned Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Brunson faced up to 35 years in jail.

The Trump administration has made the welfare of American Christian preachers across the world a priority of its foreign policy.

After Washington imposed sanctions on Turkish officials, Ankara then hit back with similar sanctions against members of the US administration.

In all, Brunson was held for two years and was convicted and sentenced Friday of espionage and aiding terror groups, only to be quickly released on the basis of good behaviour and time served.

Trump hailed the release, which has been seen as an opening for Ankara and Washington to restore frayed ties, including with Pompeo, who met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Wednesday.

After his meeting with Pompeo in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that sanctions were "nonsense".

"We agree that in our relations, there should be no sanctions like this and other issues," he said. "As long as there are sanctions, relations can go nowhere".

The Turkish lira has rallied against the US dollar in the past week following Brunson's release.

On Wednesday the Turkish currency stood at 5.55 against the greenback, a gain in value of over two per cent at 1530 GMT after Pompeo's remarks.

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