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Trump sees 'good, even great' ties with Turkey after Brunson release

TRUMP SEES GOOD, EVEN GREAT TIES WITH TURKEY AFTER BRUNSON RELEASE

U.S. President Donald Trump denied an NBC report that Turkey and the United States had reached a secret deal for the 50-year-old Brunson to be released in exchange for the US easing "economic pressure" on Ankara. The president tweeted: "There was NO DEAL made with Turkey. I don't make deals for hostages. There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!"

US President Donald Trump said Saturday he hoped the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey would lead to improved ties with Ankara, after months of diplomatic rancor that eventually triggered a crash in the lira.

He also denied an NBC report that the two countries had reached a secret deal for Brunson to be released in exchange for the US easing "economic pressure" on Ankara.

"I don't make deals for hostages," Trump said on Twitter.

"There was, however, great appreciation on behalf of the United States, which will lead to good, perhaps great, relations between the United States & Turkey!"

Trump also thanked his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

On Twitter, Trump said the freed pastor would be his guest at the Oval Office at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday.

"It will be wonderful to see and meet him. He is a great Christian who has been through such a tough experience. I would like to thank President @RT_Erdogan for his help!," Trump tweeted.

Erdoğan has repeatedly stressed that Friday's release of Brunson was a ruling made by the independent Turkish judiciary.

Brunson was arrested in December 2016 and charged in the Aegean province of Izmir with being a member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind a defeated coup earlier that year.

After being transferred from jail to house arrest this July, Brunson on Friday was sentenced to just over three years in prison, but released due to time served and his good behavior in custody.

The charges against him included spying for both FETO and the PKK, a group recognized as terrorist by the U.S. and EU which is responsible for some 40,000 deaths in Turkey, including women and children.

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