Trump thanks Turkey for Andrew Brunson’s release, denies cutting deal

The dispute over Brunson brought new tension to the relationship. Trump authorized a doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey in August, and Turkey retaliated by increasing tariffs on U.S. cars, alcohol and tobacco imports.

Turkey is in a financial crisis and its lira currency has plunged against the dollar this year on concerns over Erdogans grip on monetary policy and the diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Washington.

Brunson, who lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was accused of having links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric blamed by Erdogan’s government for a coup attempt in 2016.

Brunson denied the accusations against him and Washington had demanded his immediate release.

In his tweet urging joint action against terrorist groups, Erdogan included the Kurdistan Workers’ Party militant group and a network of Gulen’s supporters that it accuses of trying to overthrow the government.

Erdogan has demanded the United States extradite Gulen to face charges in Turkey.

Even as U.S. officials celebrated Brunson’s freedom, they called on Turkey to also release a Turkish-U.S. national and former NASA scientist in jail on terrorism charges, as well as three local employees of the U.S. consulate who have also been detained.

Another source of tension between the two countries is a U.S. Treasury investigation into an Iranian sanctions-busting scheme in which senior executives at Turkish state lender Halkbank allegedly conspired with Iranians to transfer Iranian oil revenues out of Turkey.

A U.S. judge sentenced Halkbank executive Mehmet Hakan Atilla to 32 months in prison in May. Halkbank could face a hefty fine as a result of the probe.

The bank has said all its transactions were legal and Turkey has dismissed the case as politically motivated. It hopes that improved relations with Washington could reduce or prevent the fine against Halkbank.

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