US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he hoped Americans detained in Turkey would be released “in the coming days,” Reuters reported.
“I had a constructive conversation with my counterpart yesterday. I made clear that it is well past time that pastor [Andrew] Brunson be free and permitted to return to the United States and that the others being held by Turkey also similarly be freed as well,” Pompeo told reporters a day after a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Singapore.
“I am hopeful that in the coming days that we will see that occur,” added Pompeo.
The United States on Wednesday sanctioned Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu over the imprisonment of pastor Brunson.
Asked if the issue threatened Turkey’s membership in NATO, Pompeo said: “Turkey is a NATO partner who the United States has every intention of continuing to work cooperatively with.”
The US decision to impose sanctions came days after Turkey refused to free Brunson, who was last week moved by a Turkish court from pretrial detention, in which he has been held since October 2016, to house arrest in İzmir but barred him from leaving the premises or the country.
Following the court ruling US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed.
The Turkish prosecutor accuses Brunson, who runs a small church in İzmir, of activities on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, an allegation strongly denied by the movement.