Official: US Has Rejected Turkish Offer on Pastor's Release

Dispute over Andrew Brunson appears set to drag on
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2018 5:58 AM CDT
Updated Aug 20, 2018 7:52 AM CDT
In this July 25, 2018 photo, Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey.   (AP Photo/Emre Tazegul)
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(Newser) – The disagreement with the US currently devastating the Turkish economy doesn't appear likely to end anytime soon. American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed by Turkey for almost two years before a shift to house arrest last month, is at the center of the dispute and a senior White House official tells the Wall Street Journal that the US has rejected a Turkish offer to trade his freedom for dropping charges against Halkbank, a state-owned bank facing billions in US fines for violating sanctions on Iran. The US has told Turkey it won't negotiate until Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted, is freed, the White House official says, adding: "A real NATO ally wouldn’t have arrested Brunson in the first place."

The US has already hit Turkish officials with sanctions over Brunson and the two countries have traded tariff increases, causing the Turkish lira to plummet to record lows. Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina strongly supported by American evangelical groups, was arrested because of his alleged ties to banned political groups, the BBC reports. American officials have threatened even more sanctions unless Brunson is freed, while Turkey has said it will not give in to American threats. Jon Alterman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies describes Brunson as a "pawn" in a feud between President Trump and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Shots were fired at the US Embassy in Ankara early Monday.)

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