US not yet seen ‘real progress’ on Americans imprisoned in Turkey

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US Department of State building.

The United States has seen little satisfactory progress regarding US citizens, including pastor Andrew Brunson, imprisoned in Turkey, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Nauert’s restrained responses to questions on the progress of talks with Turkey contradicted claims in the Turkish media earlier Tuesday that some kind of a preliminary agreement had been reached.

“If we had reached any kind of agreement you would see Pastor Brunson back here at home along with the other American citizens,” Nauert said, referring to the US pastor whose imprisonment in Turkey since October 2016 on terror charges sparked the latest crisis between the NATO allies and led to US sanctions on two Turkish ministers.

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

A Turkish delegation was headed to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss a solution to the diplomatic row after the Turkish lira hit a record low of 5.42 to the dollar on Monday.

Officials from Turkey’s justice, finance and foreign ministries reportedly make up the nine-member delegation going to Washington. The meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday.

Asked about a planned meeting with the Turks, Nauert said: “I’ve seen reports about that. I can’t confirm any of that, and we just don’t have any meetings or anything to announce at this time.”

The Turkish delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal, left for Washington on Tuesday to resolve the current crisis in relations after the US slapped sanctions on Turkey over the continued detention of Brunson.

“It’s certainly a good thing that the Secretary and the foreign minister were able to have a phone call yesterday,” Nauert told journalists on Tuesday in reference to a conversation between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Turkey and the US are currently experiencing rocky relations after the US imposed sanctions on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül over the continued detention of Brunson, who faces terrorism charges in Turkey.

It was earlier reported that Turkey and the US had reached a preliminary agreement on some issues involved in the crisis. According to sources speaking to the Hürriyet daily, the agreement covers “certain subjects,” with a Turkish delegation scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., to “precede” the talks.

(Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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