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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Mike Pompeo says US may lift sanctions on Turkey linked to pastor Brunson's detention

Turkey's judicary ordered the release of the cleric earlier this month on the basis of time served and good behaviour

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters while his plane refuels in Brussels, Belgium Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Pool Image via AP
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters while his plane refuels in Brussels, Belgium Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. Pool Image via AP

The US is mulling lifting some sanctions on Turkey linked to the now ended detention of an American pastor, the country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday evening after talks in Ankara.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that with the release of pastor Andrew Brunson earlier this month, sanctions tied to his detention could be lifted although he said no formal decision had been made.

"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," Mr 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.

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Ankara then hit back with similar sanctions against members of the US administration.

In all, Mr 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 Mr Pompeo, who met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Wednesday.

After his meeting with Mr 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 Mr Brunson's release.

On Wednesday the Turkish currency stood at 5.55 against the greenback, a gain in value of over 2 per cent at after Pompeo's remarks.