National security adviser John Bolton met with Turkey’s ambassador to the United States on Aug. 13 to discuss the detention of American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, according to the White House.
“At the Turkish ambassador’s request, Ambassador John Bolton met with Ambassador Serdar Kilic of Turkey today in the White House. They discussed Turkey’s continued detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson and the state of the U.S.–Turkey relationship,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Bolton and Kilic met as the Turkish currency, the lira, fell to another record low as a result of sanctions imposed by the White House. President Donald Trump on Aug. 10 authorized the doubling of tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Turkey, triggering a currency collapse.
The sanctions were imposed by the White House in August. Trump threatened to impose sanctions on July 26 and called on Turkey to release Brunson. The White House followed through on Aug. 1 and sanctioned two top Turkish officials.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has resisted pressure by American officials to free Brunson.
Turkish authorities moved Brunson to house arrest after the pastor spent more than a year in jail awaiting the result of a trial. Erdoğan had previously suggested releasing Brunson in exchange for the extradition of a Muslim cleric residing in the United States.
Brunson was arrested in October 2016, after Turkey accused him of aiding terrorist organizations. Brunson has denied the charges.
The U.S. Senate in June prohibited Turkey from buying F-35 fighter jets in part because of Brunson’s detention. Ankara has vowed to buy liquid natural gas from Iran in defiance of Washington sanctions.
Despite news reports that the United States had set a deadline for Turkey to hand over Brunson, U.S. officials said no deadline had been set.
There has been no sign that the United States was prepared to negotiate with Turkey over Brunson, with Trump seemingly content for now to let economic pressures continue to weigh on Turkey’s economy.
Reuters contributed to this report.