Trump Says Brunson's Release a ‘Tremendous Step’ Forward in US-Turkey Ties

Trump Says Brunson's Release a ‘Tremendous Step’ Forward in US-Turkey Ties

Sunday, 14 October, 2018 - 12:15
US President Donald Trump in the White House Oval Office in the presence of senior US administration officials. AP
Ankara - Saiid Abdulrazzak
US pastor Andrew Brunson returned to the United States after being detained in Turkey for two years on terror-related charges.

He was received by US President Donald Trump at the White House hours after he arrived in Washington.

Trump thanked Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for "making this possible" and said the preacher's return to the US marks a "tremendous step" forward in relations with Ankara.

Branson thanked Trump for his efforts to facilitate his release after being jailed for nearly two years as part of a "terrorism" and "espionage" case that led to a major diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Washington.

The preacher left Turkey with his wife Norine on a US military flight bound for Germany on Friday. He was greeted at a military base by US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who gave Brunson a US flag during a refueling stop.

"When I presented him with the US flag, he immediately kissed it", Grenell said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Turkey has rejected Trump's assertion that US pressure had contributed to the release from house arrest of Brunson.

Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of Erdogan, voiced objection to Trump's comments in a tweet that the US had worked "very hard" over the case of the pastor.

Altun insisted that Turkish courts were independent from the government and impartial.

"We would like to remind him once again that Turkey is a democratic country with the rule of law, and that Turkish courts are independent."

"Nobody, authority, office or person may issue orders or instructions to the courts or to judges in the exercise of their powers," the official added.

Some observers and the US media considered the court's decision as a result of a deal between Turkey and the United States.

Following the court’s decision, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke over the phone, a Turkish diplomatic source said without giving further details.

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