Spotlight: U.S.

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"The two countries likely will talk about ways to work together on trade issues and reach some accommodation that is helpful to both sides," West said.

Turkish officials implied that Trump wants Brunson's release to please evangelical voters, a critical constituency for him and the Republican Party in November's midterm elections.

U.S. pastor Andrew Craig Brunson (C,L) arrives at Adnan Menderes airport in Izmir, on October 12, 2018 after being freed following a trial in a court in Aliaga in western Izmir province. (Xinhua/AFP)

Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi leadership, was killed, according to unconfirmed reports. While Ankara and Riyadh agreed to form a joint investigation team, the Khashoggi case also drew Washington's close attention.

Trump wants to get to the bottom of Khashoggi's death, said O'Connell. "Trump's in a situation where ... he's going to need more than the Saudis to know exactly what happened."

For Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, the release might allow a new warming in the overall U.S.-Turkish ties.

"There are still broader concerns about the strength of the relationship given the approach taken by Erdogan regarding the consolidation of his powers and Turkey's posture in the region," Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president at the Washington-based Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua.

Ankara has a strained relationship with Riyadh due to several issues, most importantly the Saudi efforts to isolate Qatar, an important Turkish ally, and Turkey's support to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Flanagan.

Washington welcomes the pastor's release, adding that "we remain deeply concerned about the continued detention of other United States citizens in Turkey and around the world, and urge the resolution of all these cases in a transparent and fair manner."

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Turkey on Friday freed the long detained U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, a gesture of compromise but not enough to defrost the bilateral ties that had been overshadowed by a group of divergences, U.S. experts said Friday.

Turkish officials have been very helpful on the Khashoggi case by providing "the most important information pointing to Saudi involvement," said West. "Turkish information has garnered considerable good will within the United States on this high-profile case."

RAPPROCHEMENT ON HOLD

RESPONSE TO RELEASE

The detention caused one of the worst diplomatic rows between the two NATO allies, as the Trump administration imposed a slew of financial sanctions on Turkey to press for Brunson's release. In return, Ankara increased tariffs on imported American cars, alcohol and tobacco.

A Turkish court decided earlier Friday to release the 150-year-old pastor, who was detained about two years ago over espionage charges and links to a network led by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen who Ankara blames for the July 2016 coup bid.

Ankara has incentives to expose Riyadh's apparent misdeeds, which were probably a violation of Turkish sovereignty, said Flanagan, adding that Ankara probably thinks its cooperation with Washington in the Khashoggi case will help improve bilateral relations on economy.

Before Brunson's release, U.S. broadcaster NBC reported that Ankara and Washington had reached "a secret deal" for Brunson to be released on Friday and some charges against him were dropped, in exchange for the United States easing "economic pressure" that included blows to the Turkish currency in summer.

However, Trump's personal attitude toward Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not clear yet, White said, adding that "the personal dimension between Trump and Erdogan will likely continue to be a sizeable -- perhaps dominant -- factor in where U.S.-Turkish relations go from here."

Stephen J. Flanagan, senior political scientist at the California-based RAND Corporation, also warned that although the release will warm up the Trump-Erdogan relationship, "significant policy differences remain on stabilization of Syria and the Turkish request to extradite Fethullah Gulen."

For Turkey, it would also like some relief from steel tariffs, Darrell West, senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, told Xinhua.

U.S. President Donald Trump denied the report, saying there is no deal at all.

Brunson's release will strengthen Turkey's hand to move the United States into its corner ahead of a possible crisis with Saudi Arabia, Washington's close ally, regarding the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul after he entered the Saudi consulate there, said experts.

KHASHOGGI CASE HELPS

"This is big news domestically because of the administration's stance on religious freedom," said Ford O'Connell, political analyst and Republican strategist.