US president tells Reuters he freed Turkish tourist held in Israel at request of Turkey's Erdogan
US President Donald Trump on Monday ruled out making any concessions to Turkey to gain the freedom of a detained American pastor and said he was not concerned that retaliatory tariffs he imposed will have a ripple effect and hurt the European economy.
Trump, speaking to Reuters in an Oval Office interview, said he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen. He had thought Erdogan would then release pastor Andrew Brunson.
"I think it's very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they're making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions," he said.
Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminium, raising concerns of economic damage in Europe.
"I'm not concerned at all. I’m not concerned. This is the proper thing to do," he said, when asked about the potential damage to other economies.
Last month Israel released 27-year-old Turkish tourist Ebru Ozkan after accusing her of aiding Hamas, charges that her family had said were "arbitrary".
Trump said Erdogan had wanted Ozkan returned from Israel.
The US president met his Turkish counterpart in Brussels for a NATO summit in mid-July where they discussed Brunson’s case and what could be the way forward to release the pastor, a senior White House official said earlier.
Turkey had sought US help to persuade the Israelis to release Ozkan, the senior official said. In exchange Turkey would release Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkey.
Trump said he kept his side of the bargain.
"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 said.
Israel, which confirmed that Trump had requested Ozkan’s release, deported her on 15 July. Ankara has denied ever agreeing to free Brunson in return.
Trump added: "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."
Last week, a senior Turkish diplomatic source told MEE that Brunson may be released, but Ankara wants "something in return".
During a trip to Washington last week, the source said, the Turks offered to free Brunson in exchange for leniency in two US government probes into the Turkish state lender Halkbank.
The bank is being investigated over alleged Iran sanctions-busting, another source of tension between the two countries.
“We want to see some goodwill about the fate of these investigations. But the Trump administration said that their judiciary was independent and couldn’t promise anything,” the source said.