US officials 'had a wide-ranging conversation with Turkish government officials,' says State Department spokesperson
American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is under house arrest for terrorism charges in Turkey, needs to be returned home, the State Department said Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. has "a very broad relationship with Turkey and a host of issues that we talk about with the Turkish government whenever we do meet".
Her remarks came a day after a nine-person Turkish delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal held talks with officials from the U.S. State and Treasury departments in an attempt to resolve issues between the two countries.
"Yesterday, we had a wide-ranging conversation with Turkish government officials. We made it clear that Pastor Brunson needs to be returned home.
"Much of this though, we're not going to negotiate in public," said Nauert. "I would say we would define progress as Pastor Brunson being brought home."
Brunson's charges include spying for the PKK -- listed as a terrorist group by both the U.S. and Turkey -- and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), the group behind the defeated coup attempt in Turkey of July 2016.
Turkey and the U.S. are currently experiencing rocky relations following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül for not releasing Brunson.
The two NATO allies have been at odds since the defeated coup, which Ankara accused U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen and his FETÖ organization of masterminding.