US President Donald Trump on Monday said he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to gain the release of a detained US pastor after he asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to free a Turkish citizen held for smuggling funds to Hamas.
“I got that person out for him. I expect him to let this very innocent and wonderful man and great father and great Christian out of Turkey,” Trump told the Reuters news agency.
According to a report last month, Trump phoned Netanyahu from Scotland on July 14 and asked the Israeli leader to release Ebru Ozkan, accused of smuggling objects, including perfume and a phone charger, as well as $500 into Israel and then the West Bank in the service of members of the Hamas terror group. She was charged on four separate counts.
Trump thought that in exchange for Ozkan’s release, Turkey would free pastor Andrew Brunson.
Brunson served as pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church, a small Protestant congregation, and has lived in Turkey for 23 years. He was detained by Turkish forces in the aftermath of the failed July 2016 coup, The indictment against him contends he worked to convert Kurds to Christianity in order to sow discord in Turkey.
On July 15 Ozkan was released and sent back to Turkey. Following her release Ozkan was met by reporters as she landed in Istanbul, and specifically thanked Erdogan for securing her freedom, according to the Turkish outlet Daily Sabah.
However, rather than free the jailed pastor, a Turkish court ordered him released to house arrest.
Ankara has denied that it agreed to release Brunson in return for Ozkan’s freedom.
“I think it’s very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump told Reuters.
“I like Turkey. I like the people of Turkey very much. Until now I had a very good relationship as you know with the president. I got along with him great. I had a very good relationship. But it can’t be a one-way street. It’s no longer a one-way street for the United States,” he said.
Relations between the two NATO allies have plummeted in one of the worst crises in decades after the detention of Brunson on terror-related charges, sending the Turkish lira into free fall against the dollar.
On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned the United States would levy more sanctions on the troubled Turkish economy if Ankara does not soon release Brunson.
A day earlier, Turkey said it was increasing tariffs on imports of certain US products in response to American sanctions on Ankara that caused the value of the lira to plunge.
The move comes after US President Donald Trump announced a week earlier that the United States was doubling steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey.
Trump also signed a defense authorization act that notably prohibits the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey if it buys Russia’s S-400 air defense system.
In retaliation to the US sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last Tuesday Turkey would boycott US electronic goods.
His comments led to Turks posting videos in which they smash iPhones with bats, hammers, and other blunt instruments.