State Department Spokesperson Nauert: US unsatisfied with Brunson progress

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert

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

“If we had reached any kind of agreement you would see Pastor Brunson back here at home along with the other American citizens,” said Nauert, 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.

Nauert’s restrained responses to questions on the progress of talks with Turkey contradicted claims spread on Turkish media earlier on Tuesday that an agreement, or any other concrete progress on the matter had been made.

“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 headed to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss a solution for the diplomatic row, after the Turkish lira hit record lows of 5,42 to the dollar on Monday.

The Turkish delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal left for Washington on Tuesday to resolve the current crisis in relations after the US slapped sanctions against Turkey over the detention of pastor Brunson, while the two sides’ foreign ministers held a phone call on the same day, in a sign of wanting to put diplomacy back on track.

Officials from Turkey’s justice, finance and foreign ministries make up the nine-member delegation going to Washington, according to diplomatic sources who asked to remain anonymous. The meeting is expected to take place on Wednesday.

“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 phone conversation between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

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

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 reached a preliminary agreement on some issues after the crisis. According to sources speaking to daily Hürriyet, the agreement covers “certain subjects” and a Turkish delegation is scheduled to visit Washington DC in the coming days to “precede” the talks.

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