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Turkey, US Fail to Reach Accord Over Detained Pastor Brunson

Turkey and the U.S. failed to reach an accord on Pastor Andrew Brunson after talks between the Turkish and U.S. officials in Washington on Wednesday, most likely paving the way for further potential sanctions by the White House against Ankara.

A Turkish delegation’s efforts to resolve the standoff over Brunson whose ongoing detention remains a festering source of friction between two allies have not borne any fruit. Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal met with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to find out a solution that would also provide a face-saving exit out of the conflict for Turkey.

The U.S. Treasury Department hit two Turkish ministers with sanctions last week after Brunson had been moved to house arrest in a crushing blow to the U.S. expectation for his release.

In an open display of exasperation, the U.S. administration went ahead with President Donald J. Trump’s sanction threats and blocked assets of Turkey’s justice and interior ministers within the U.S. jurisdiction and prohibited the U.S. firms and individuals from engaging in any transaction with the banned ministers.

The deepening rift sent the Turkish lira into record low against the U.S. dollar. Although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted a retaliation in kind against the U.S. interior and justice secretaries, Ankara has yet to impose sanctions on the two officials.

While Turkey’s leadership has publicly adopted an unflinching stance, it intensified efforts behind the scenes to cool down the tension after its currency saw a free-fall against the dollar.

On Tuesday, the Turkish media came up with reports of a preliminary agreement, only to be rebuked by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

“If we had reached any type of agreement, I think you’d see Pastor Brunson back here at home,” she said on Tuesday.

“The kind of progress that we want is for Pastor Brunson, our locally employed staff, and our other American citizens to be brought home. That’s the real progress that we’re looking for, and obviously, we’re not there just yet,” she added.

As Wednesday talks came nowhere close to resolve the matter, the U.S. administration is now poised to place new punitive sanctions against Turkey. 

U.S. officials told Wall Street Journal that the White House would slap other high-profile Turkish officials with sanctions.

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