WSJ: US is positioned to impose new penalties on Turkey as talks fail

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American Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson (C), who was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK terror group and the Gülen movement, arrives at the address, which he was put under house arrest due to his health problems, in Izmir, Turkey on July 25, 2018. Evren Atalay / Anadolu Agency

The US failed to secure assurances on Wednesday from Turkey to immediately free an American pastor, US officials said, deepening a crisis between the two countries and setting stage for the Trump administration to take new punitive steps.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, during high-level talks in Washington, US and Turkish officials were unable to produce a breakthrough in an impasse that has pushed Turkey’s economy into turmoil, officials said.

The Turkish lira hit a record low on Thursday, plunging to TL 5.43 to the US dollar.

A Turkish delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal arrived in Washington for key meetings to resolve the current crisis in relations after the US imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül over the detention of pastor Andrew Brunson.

A Turkish court on July 25 put American pastor under house arrest after almost two years in pretrial detention.

Minister Gül on Tuesday said the court ruling on Brunson, who faces 35 years, was made with “justice, fairness and reason.”

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.

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