US, Turkey agree to try to resolve ‘issues’ as dispute lingers

Pompeo says US sanctions against Turkish ministers is “a demonstration that we’re very serious”.
Friday 03/08/2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) arrives at the venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore, on August 3. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) arrives at the venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore, on August 3. (AFP)

LONDON – The United States and Turkey have agreed to work closely to resolve issues between them, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday, following what he said was a “constructive” meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Cavusgolu and Pompeo met on the sidelines of a meeting of regional ministers in Singapore. Their talks came after Washington imposed sanctions on two of Turkish ministers over the trial of a US pastor accused of backing terrorism. Turkey has said the sanctions are unacceptable.

Cavusoglu, in comments to Turkish broadcasters, said he and Pompeo had also discussed potential joint steps the two countries could take regarding Syria’s Idlib and Manbij. The NATO allies have also been at odds over Syria policy.

“[Pompeo and Cavusoglu] spoke about a number of issues, and had a constructive conversation. They agreed to continue to try to resolve the issues between our two countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Pompeo told reporters travelling with him to Singapore the United States had put Turkey on notice “that the clock had run and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned”.

“I hope they’ll see this for what it is, a demonstration that we’re very serious,” Pompeo said of the sanctions. “We consider this one of the many issues that we have with the Turks.”

“Brunson needs to come home. As do all the Americans being held by the Turkish government. Pretty straightforward. They’ve been holding these folks for a long time. These are innocent people,” he said.

“We are going to work to see if we can find a way forward; I am hopeful that we can,” Pompeo said.

The United States has also been seeking the release of three locally employed embassy staff detained in Turkey.

The US Treasury Department announced sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Wednesday. 

Turkey’s lira tumbled to a record low beyond 5 to the dollar after the sanctions move. The sell-off, which also hammered Turkey’s stocks and debt risk profile, reflected deepening investor concern over tensions with the United States, a NATO ally and major trading partner.

Brunson, an evangelical Christians, was accused of helping supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who Turkish authorities say masterminded a 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish government in which 250 people were killed. He was also charged with supporting outlawed Kurdish PKK militants. Gulen denies the allegations.

Turkey has been trying to have Gulen extradited from the United States for two years.

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said the sanctions were unacceptable and would have a limited impact on the Turkish economy. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it would retaliate against what it called Washington’s hostile action.

Brunson’s case has resonated with US President Donald Trump and more particularly with Vice President Mike Pence, who has close ties to the evangelical Christian community. Pence has been following proceedings since Brunson was arrested and pressing behind the scenes for action, aides said. 

(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)