US, Turkey said to reach deal on release of American pastor

US, Turkey said to reach deal on release of American pastor

Trump administration officials said Thursday that the U.S. had struck an agreement with Turkey to release North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson from prison and return him to the usa within days.

Senior White House officials told NBC News they believe that charges against Brunson will be dropped at his next hearing, set for Friday.

"President Trump, our administration, has made it clear that we will continue to stand strong until pastor Brunson is free and back home in the USA with his family and his church".

The Secretary of State said that "Pastor Brunson and the other USA persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey". There was optimism several months ago, including from Brunson's attorney who said in a radio interview that he expected the pastor's release at the time, followed by a decision by Turkish authorities to continue to hold the United States citizen under house arrest while he faced trial.

A Turkish court will rule on Friday on the detention of Andrew Craig Brunson - a U.S. pastor who is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Washington and Ankara.

The officials cited in the report, however, cautioned that Ankara may not follow through on the purported deal.

Political tensions between the two countries sparked worries in the markets after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use economic pressure to secure Brunson's release.

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Brunson is under house arrest but could get up to 35 years in prison if convicted on charges that his lawyers say are baseless.

Sources told NBC that negotiations regarding Brunson's release between Turkish and USA officials - which included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton - were "advanced in discussions" in September at the UN General Assembly.

The trial against an American pastor at the heart of a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and the United States has resumed in Turkey.

"We remain hopeful that with the court proceeding tomorrow that Turkey will see its way clear and free this good man who is guilty of nothing and who has been incarcerated for several years in Turkey unjustly", the vice-president told reporters at a briefing.

However, US Vice-President Mike Pence would only say "we remain hopeful".

Brunson maintains his innocence and the US has repeatedly called for his release.

"Our strategic partnership, which has gone through difficulties so many times, will overcome this turbulent period", Erdogan said during an address at an investment conference held by the Turkey-US Business Council, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. Brunson has denied the accusation - as has Gulen - and Washington has demanded his immediate release. Trump then authorized a doubling of existing USA steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey.

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