The Trump administration rejected a proposal from the Turkish government that would free a detained American pastor in exchange for relief of one of its largest banks, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The report, which cites a senior White House official, said Turkey asked the U.S. to drop an ongoing investigation into Halkbank, one of the biggest state-owned Turkish banks. Halkbank faces major fines for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
In exchange, the Turkish government would release Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been detained in Turkey since 2016. Turkey accused Brunson of spying and trying to overthrow the government after a failed coup that year. President Donald Trump said Friday the charges against Brunson were "phony," adding "he is not a spy."
A White House official said other issues concerning U.S.-Turkey relations will not be discussed until after Brunson is released, according to the Journal. "A real NATO ally wouldn't have arrested Brunson in the first place," the official told the Journal.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request asking for confirmation on the comments. The Turkish embassy in Washington did not respond to a comment request.
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have escalated recently, with Trump demanding Brunson's release late last month. Trump said on Aug. 10 he was doubling metals tariffs on Turkey, propelling the country's currency to a record low.
Trump's moves against Turkey have resulted in a plunge in the price of the Turkish lira versus the dollar.