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article imageTurkey's Erdogan hopes to rebuild US ties despite pastor row

By AFP     Oct 1, 2018 in Politics

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said Turkey hoped to rebuild relations with its NATO ally the United States following a bitter standoff over the detention of an American pastor.

"God willing, we hope to solve the problems with America within the shortest time and redevelop relations in the political and economic fields with the spirit of strategic partnership," Erdogan said in an address to the opening of parliament.

The dispute has centred on the almost two-year detention of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson on terror-related and espionage charges, and caused the Turkish lira to take a beating.

President Donald Trump said he had doubled tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel over Brunson's detention, with Ankara responding in kind.

"We are determined to fight -- within the boundaries of diplomacy and law -- against this distorted approach which imposes sanctions on our country by using as a pretext a priest who is on trial for his murky relations with terror groups," Erdogan said.

Erdogan accused Washington of going down the "wrong path of seeking to solve political and legal problems through threats and blackmail rather than dialogue".

This would "actually cause the biggest harm to the United States in the medium and long term," he added.

Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for a quarter-century, runs a small evangelical Protestant church in the western city of Izmir. He is currently under house arrest.

He was detained on allegations of assisting groups branded as terrorist as part of a crackdown by the Turkish government following a failed coup in 2016.

Last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope Turkey would release the pastor, whose next hearing is scheduled for October 12.

Abdulkadir Selvi, a pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet daily, wrote that the court might rule on the lifting of Brunson's house arrest and travel ban, allowing him to return home.

"In this case, we might see Brunson walking down the stairs of the plane in the United States on October 13," he wrote.

Erdogan went to New York last week to attend the annual UN general assembly meetings and had a brief handshake with Trump on the sidelines.

That helped further boost the Turkish lira -- which crashed to lows of 7 to the dollar at the peak of the crisis. It gained 2 percent Monday to trade at 5.95 to the dollar.

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