The Wall Street Journal: U.S. won’t consider relief for Turkish bank until pastor is freed

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has rejected an effort by Turkey to tie the release of a U.S. pastor with relief for a major Turkish bank facing billions of dollars in U.S. fines, telling Ankara other issues are off the table until the minister is freed, a senior White House official said.

The jailing of Andrew Brunson has triggered the worst crisis between the two countries in decades and helped push the Turkish currency to record lows in recent months. The rejection of a possible trade sets the stage for the U.S. to impose another round of penalties against Ankara as soon as this week.

The administration wants Turkey to release Brunson and other citizens it holds on disputed terrorism charges, as well as three Turkish nationals who work for the U.S. government. Turkey, seeking a gesture in exchange, asked the U.S. to drop an investigation into Halkbank, which is facing potentially crippling fines for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The White House official said the U.S. made clear to Turkey that areas of dispute between the two nations, including the fines Halkbank faces, won’t be discussed until Brunson has been released. “A real NATO ally wouldn’t have arrested Brunson in the first place,” the senior White House official said, referring to Turkey’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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