Trump thanks Turkey for the release of Rev. Branson and denies a deal with Ankara

BAGHDAD, US President Donald Trump thanked Turkey for the release of US priest Andrew Branson after two years in detention and said the move would help improve tense relations between the two countries.

"The only deal, if you can describe it as a deal, is a psychological deal," Trump told reporters during an interview with Branson in the Oval Office. "Our feeling about Turkey today is much different than yesterday, and I think we have a chance to become much closer to Turkey."

On Friday, a Turkish court sentenced Branson to more than three years in prison after being accused of links to Kurdish militants and supporters of a Muslim cleric living in the United States but said he would not spend more time in jail because he has been detained since October 2016.

The release of the priest may signal improved relations between the two NATO member countries. Relations between the two countries deteriorated in August after a deal to free Branson failed, and Trump doubled tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel from Turkey, forcing the Turkish lira to fall against the dollar.

Trump did not pledge to lift sanctions but welcomed the end of a "difficult relationship" between the two countries over the past two months.

Trump especially thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Saturday's meeting to help secure Branson's release, who was met with a brief response from the Turkish President, who repeated that the decision was the court's decision, not his decision.

Erdogan wrote on his Twitter account saying: Dear Mr. President .. As I have always explained .. The Turkish judiciary reached its decision independently ... I hope that the United States and Turkey continue their cooperation as allies and fight together terrorist groups.

Trump said Branson's release was not easy for Erdogan.

In response to a question, Trump said the administration was actively working on the situation of other imprisoned Americans and government officials in Turkey. "We are working very hard," he said.

Source: National Iraqi News Agency