Turkey is a country of rule of law and court decisions are binding for everyone, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said regarding the case of United States Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is on trial in Turkey.
Erdoğan‘s remarks came after he was asked about the case of Brunson, who is under house arrest after spending more than a year in prison in the Aegean province of İzmir and is on trial over charges of terrorism.
Brunson‘s arrest has been a hot issue between Washington and Ankara, with the Donald Trump administration demanding his immediate release.
The next hearing of the trial will be held on Oct. 12.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sept. 24 he was hopeful Brunson would be released.
Erdoğan reiterated that the decision belongs to the court.
“I am the president of the Turkish Republic, a democratic and constitutional state,” he said. “Hence, I must obey whatever the decision the judiciary gives. All related parties must follow the judicial rulings. That’s it,” said Erdoğan.
Relations between the United States and Turkey have been shaken over the pastor.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he has doubled tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel over the detention of the pastor, with Ankara responding in kind.
Brunson, who is a Christian pastor from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted over charges of having links with the illegal PKK and FETÖ, widely believed to have masterminded the failed coup attempt in July 2016.
The pastor was imprisoned from October 2016 to July 25, when a court in the western province of İzmir ruled to move him to house arrest, citing health concerns.
Another issue between Turkey and the U.S. is the situation in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
Deal with the US
The town is controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which the U.S. supports as an ally in the fight against ISIL, but Turkey considers the group to be an offshoot of the PKK, hence a terrorist group.
Erdoğan said there was a delay in the implementation of the agreement reached between Ankara and Washington on Manbij.
“The joint training [of Turkish and U.S. troops] is starting,” the president said.
“In addition, efforts to choose who will control Manbij after the YPG are ongoing. There is a delay, but [the agreement is] not completely dead.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are also saying they will take solid steps in the coming days,” he said.
The agreement Erdoğan referred to was brokered between Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Pompeo on June 4, seeking the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and joint control of the city by Turkish and American troops.
The two countries’ soldiers have been performing patrol missions in the region separately since June and the training over joint patrols started on Oct. 9.
“Following the completion of training, common united patrolling activities will begin in an effort to establish stability and security in the region and to prevent terrorist activities in the future,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.