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The White House expects the Turkish government to release detained American pastor Andrew Brunson in the coming days after reaching a secret deal, NBC News reported Thursday, citing two senior administration officials and another person briefed on the situation.

The detention of the pastor has been an ongoing source of tension between the U.S. and Turkey, one of America’s most important allies in the region.

The news of Brunson’s potential release comes as Turkey and another U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, are engaged in a dispute over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen since entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

A number of anonymous Turkish police sources have told domestic and international news outlets that the Turkish government believes that Khashoggi was murdered on the orders of the Saudi government.

NBC reported that while the details of the agreement weren’t immediately clear, it does include a U.S. commitment to scale back economic pressure on Turkey.

The Turkish lira rallied more than 2 percent on the news to trade at 5.97 per U.S. dollar. The iShares MSCI Turkey ETF, which tracks the performance of Turkish stocks, jumped more than 5 percent to its session high.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. There are some doubts within the administration about how conclusive the deal may be, NBC News reported. One senior official told the outlet that Turkey came close to a similar agreement several months ago.

The continued detention of the pastor, who was arrested in 2016 following a failed coup attempt in the country, compelled the U.S. to slap Turkey with sanctions over the summer.

Read the full story at NBC News.

— CNBC’s
Fred Imbert
contributed to this article.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.



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Hitachi to announce purchase of ABB’s power grid business: Nikkei

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Signage at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi, Santa Clara, California, which is reportedly due to announce Dec. 17, 2018 a plan to buy the Swiss engineering group ABB's power grid business.

Smith Collection, Gado | Archive Photos | Getty Images

Signage at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Japanese multinational conglomerate Hitachi, Santa Clara, California, which is reportedly due to announce Dec. 17, 2018 a plan to buy the Swiss engineering group ABB’s power grid business.

Hitachi and ABB will announce on Monday a plan for the Japanese conglomerate to buy the Swiss engineering group’s power grid business, paying up to $7 billion for an initial 50 percent stake, the Nikkei business daily reported.

The two companies, which have previously said they were in talks over the deal, will hold a news conference later on Monday, the business daily said.

The acquisition would allow Hitachi to boost its global presence in the power grid industry, while ABB, which also makes industrial robots, wants to offload its least profitable division to focus on areas such as automation.

A Hitachi spokesman declined to confirm the report, saying it was not something the company had announced.

A source familiar with the situation has valued the power grid business at between $10 billion and $12 billion.

Other sources have said that ABB could keep a stake in the power grid business via a joint venture with Hitachi.

The Nikkei reported that the deal would see Hitachi pay 600 billion-800 billion yen ($5.3 billion to $7 billion) for an initial 50 percent stake in the business.

ABB’s power grid business employs 36,000 people and had sales of $10.4 billion last year. It had an operating profit margin of 10.0 percent in the third quarter, down 60 basis points from a year earlier.

The decision to sell it marks a U-turn for ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer, who decided to keep the business two years ago despite calls from some shareholders to sell.

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Saudi Arabia rejects US Senate position on journalist Jamal Khashoggi

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Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014.

Mohammed al-Shaikh | AFP | Getty Images

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014.

Saudi Arabia early on Monday rejected “the position expressed recently by the United States Senate,” saying that the Jamal Khashoggi murder is a crime that does not reflect the policy of the kingdom, a statement by Saudi’s foreign ministry said.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects the position expressed recently by the United States Senate, which was based upon unsubstantiated claims and allegations, and contained blatant interferences in the Kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the Kingdom’s regional and international role,” the statement carried by Saudi Press Agency said.

“The Kingdom has previously asserted that the murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi is a deplorable crime that does not reflect the Kingdom’s policy nor its institutions and reaffirms its rejection of any attempts to take the case out of the path of justice in the Kingdom.”

The U.S. Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia last week, voting to end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Khashoggi.

The statement also added “the Kingdom hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship.”

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Sri Lanka president accuses newly reappointed PM of corrupt leadership

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Sri Lanka’s president accused newly reappointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe of corrupt leadership in a scathing speech Sunday in which he voiced doubts about their ability to work together and signaled the 2-month political crisis is far from resolved.

President Maithripala Sirisena administered the oath that returned Wickremesinghe to office, then gave a speech soon after the ceremony, telling the prime minister and a group of his lawmakers that he can’t find people of honesty and integrity to help him take the country forward.

“With the issues we have, I am not sure what guarantees we have that we could go on this journey together,” Sirisena told Wickremesinghe.

The swearing in took place privately, with only a few lawmakers in attendance and media not permitted. It initially indicated an end to the impasse, but Sirisena’s speech is a sign of more acrimony, possibly leading to early parliamentary elections. A new Cabinet is expected to be sworn in soon.

Wickremesinghe spoke separately at his official residence and refrained from responding to Sirisena. “Now I will assume duties of the office of prime minister,” Wickremesinghe told his cheering supporters.

“Unfortunately, during the past few weeks, the progress of this country and the development programs that we undertook were stalled,” he said. “Not only that, the country went backward. Today we commit firstly to bring back normalcy and resuming the development program.”

In his televised speech, Sirisena said his reasons for firing Wickremesinghe included a lack of interest in helping investigate an alleged insider trade during a bond issue, in which a former Central Bank governor who is a close friend of Wickremesinghe is implicated.

He also said Wickremesinghe’s ministers alienated Buddhist monks by having them arrested for keeping unlicensed captive elephants at temples. Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation with an influential clergy.

Sirisena also criticized Wickremesinghe for investigations into alleged abuses during the long civil war that ended in 2009. The president said Wickremesinghe had only government soldiers arrested but had not looked into prosecuting former Tamil Tiger rebels he said were hiding in foreign countries.

“My view is that we should prosecute everyone, or else we should negotiate with the international community and free our soldiers (from accusations),” he said.

Both sides were accused of grave wartime abuses. According to a U.N. report, at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed just in the final months of the fighting.

Wickremesinghe had insisted his abrupt firing on Oct. 26 was unlawful. Sirisena’s choice for prime minister, former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa, lost two no-confidence votes in Parliament but continued to hold the office with Sirisena’s support.

When his opponents went to court, the Court of Appeal suspended Rajapaksa and his Cabinet from functioning in their offices. Rajapaksa asked the Supreme Court to lift the suspension, but it refused and extended the suspension until mid-January, forcing Rajapaksa to resign on Saturday.

The suspension had left Sri Lanka without a government and in danger of being unable to spend government money from Jan. 1. It is also committed to repay $1 billion in foreign debts in January.

“We can be proud of the way our Parliament and Supreme Court did their duties according to the law,” Wickremesinghe said Sunday, adding that the Supreme Court had strengthened the freedom of the citizens by interpreting the law accurately.

“We all need a normal life, we need our progress and it is to this that we are committed,” he said.

Sirisena was health minister in Rajapaksa’s Cabinet when he defected to join Wickremesinghe and challenge Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election. After winning the election, he formed a government with Wickremesinghe as prime minister, but the two leaders started to have differences over economic policy and the investigations of alleged wartime abuses.

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