Let’s get the retraction out of the way right up front as proof that my mind reading abilities are vastly overrated and that you miss some things if you go to bed too early. Yesterday evening I published a rather glum analysis of the Trump – Erdogan meeting, describing it as “kind of a bust.” One of the two primary disappointments for me was the lack of attention paid to the continued imprisonment of American Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. The line notes issued to the press following the meeting made no mention of it, nor did either leader bring it up in their brief, public remarks. While acknowledging that Trump might have been working on a deal behind the scenes, I concluded it was unlikely that he was or we would have heard about it.
So… funny story. Turns out Trump and Erdogan actually did discuss it. In fact it came up several times. They just didn’t feature that bit of the conversation in their public remarks. So, my apologies to the President for short changing him on this important issue. CNN had the details which came out overnight.
US President Donald Trump raised the issue of a US pastor imprisoned in Turkey three times during a meeting with the Turkish president Tuesday, according to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
The White House confirmed Trump had raised the subject of Brunson during his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Washington, their first face-to-face meeting since Trump took office in January.
“President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish Government expeditiously return him to the United States,” the White House said in a statement after the meeting.
The ACLJ celebrated the news in a statement on its website: “This is exactly what we asked the President to do and is a major sign of significant progress toward bringing Pastor Andrew home.”
I should also offer some thanks to the American Center for Law and Justice which has been all over this issue for some time and clearly gained the ear of both the President and the Vice President.
What’s left unknown after receiving this updated information is how Erdogan responded. Having the President ask about it several times and seeing the issue raised in the press (outside of the protective media blackout which Erdogan maintains inside his own country) is a good start. Was there an agreement reached which will see Pastor Brunson on his way home soon? We don’t know yet, but there may be some delicate horse trading going on in the background. It seems like a small enough gesture for Erdogan to make on his side of the equation and he might get a considerable return on his investment in exchange. I’ll still feel a bit queasy if it involves giving up Fethullah Gulen absent some proof that he actually was involved in or masterminded the failed coup attempt last summer, but if it comes down to it I suppose I’d still want to make the deal if nothing else could be worked out.
If we’re waiting for some sign that Erdogan is about to roll back some of his tyrannical tendencies at home, well… that’s probably a bit much to hope for. But in the end, this is about securing America’s interests, including the freedom of one our own citizens. That’s not a done deal yet, but we at least appear to be a bit closer than we have been over the past six months. Let’s all hope that the end is in sight.