US President Donald Trump has said he felt personally let down by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over his refusal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson after the US had helped a Turkish citizen detained in Israel.
“I’m disappointed in him,” Trump said on Thursday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News, after initially declining to comment because the episode was “too dear to my heart.”
“I got somebody back for him,” Trump said. “I’m very disappointed in him, but we’ll see how it all works out.”
Ties between Ankara and Washington are in an unprecedented crisis over the continued detention of Brunson, which has become a lightning rod in strained relations between Turkey and the US, leading Washington to slap economic and political sanctions on its NATO ally.
Brunson, who has been living in Turkey for more than two decades, was accused of helping the Gülen movement. He was also charged with supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The pastor was moved from prison to house arrest on July 25.
On Aug. 17, a penal court in the western province of İzmir rejected an appeal for Brunson to be released from house arrest during his trial on terrorism charges. His next hearing as part of the trial is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Turkey denied media reports that a deal was sealed between Turkey and the US for the release of Turkish citizen Ebru Özkan, who was arrested in Israel on June 11, from an Israeli prison in return for the release of Brunson. Özkan, who was released by an Israeli court pending trial, returned to Turkey on July 16.