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Aug 09 2018

U.S. demanding 15 “hostages” back from Turkey – Sözcü

Nationalist newspaper Sözcü, citing anonymous diplomatic sources, said a U.S. delegation at a Wednesday bilateral meeting gave their Turkish counterparts a list of 15 people they wanted to be released from prison.

The United States also sought written assurance from the nine-person Turkish group that all U.S. citizens would be released, the newspaper said.

A crisis in diplomatic relations erupted last month after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that they wanted to see the release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, a missionary who has been kept in Turkish detention for more than two years facing charges of supporting terrorism.

Trump said Brunson was being “held hostage”. Later reports said that Turkey and the United States has negotiated an agreement for Brunson’s release at a court hearing on July 18, but that he had been moved to house arrest instead. The United States responded by placing global Magnitsky sanctions on two Turkish ministers.

In the face of a fast-falling lira, Turkish officials touted a regularly scheduled workshop with their U.S. counterparts on Wednesday as a forum for the resolution of the crisis.

After it became clear that no progress had been made at the meeting – with the two sides merely resolving “to continue to stay in contact” – the lira fell to below 5.40 to the dollar.

Sözcü said that at the meeting, U.S. officials had made it clear that the Trump administration expected the release of Brunson, 12 other U.S. citizens in Turkish detention, and Turkish citizens Hamza Akçay and Metin Topuz, who were arrested over their work for U.S. diplomatic missions.

In addition, the newspaper said, the U.S. side refused to confirm that it would give Turkey an exemption from sanctions on Iran to allow it to continue to purchase oil and gas according to existing contracts.