19:36 GMT27 February 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - American pastor Andrew Brunson has cleared Turkish airspace and is expected to arrive at Joint Base Andrews in the US state of Maryland at noon on Saturday after making a stop in Germany, the pool report said on Friday, citing White House spokesman Judd Deere.

    "We're very honored to have him back with us," US President Donald Trump told reporters Friday. "He suffered greatly but we're very appreciative to a lot of people," Trump added, saying no deal had been made with Turkey on lifting US sanctions in exchange for Brunson's release, according to Reuters.

    "There was no deal at all," Trump said as quoted by a White House pool report on Friday. Trump added that Brunson will likely visit the White House on Saturday.

    The US pastor was detained in 2016 over his alleged ties to the movement of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey holds responsible for orchestrating the failed military coup earlier that year. The pastor was released from prison in late July 2018, only to be moved to house arrest.

    Earlier on Friday, a court in Izmir sentenced Brunson to more than three years in prison but released him from house arrest, saying he would not have to serve any more jail time.

    READ MORE: White House: US Not Removing Tariffs on Turkey Even if Pastor Brunson Released

    Brunson's arrest significantly dampened US-Turkish relations. Following the pastor's detention, the United States imposed sanctions against Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and doubled previously levied import tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

    The Turkish economy has been struggling due its depreciating national currency, lira, which has fallen by nearly 40 percent against the US dollar since the beginning of the year amid the deterioration in the relations between Ankara and Washington.

    In September, Turkey's economic confidence index took a nosedive to its lowest level in nearly 10 years. This marked the most significant decrease in the country's economic confidence since the 2008 financial crisis.

    On Thursday, media reported that the United States and Turkey had struck a secret deal to have the pastor released in exchange for Washington easing economic pressure on Ankara.


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    secret deal, release, sanctions, White House, Andrew Brunson, Donald Trump, Turkey, US
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