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Halkbank executive sentenced in U.S. may come back to Turkey - Hurriyet quoting minister

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) – An executive of Turkey’s Halkbank sentenced to prison in an Iran sanctions-busting case in the United States may be returned to Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The case against Hakan Atilla, which President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned as a political attack against his government, is one of several issues that have strained relations between Washington and Ankara.

Halkbank, which denies any wrongdoing, has since faced potential U.S. Treasury fines in relation to the case. However, recent a improvement in diplomatic ties has raised expectations that the lender may incur decreased or no fines.

Following a briefing with Turkish media, the Hurriyet daily quoted Cavusoglu as saying that Atilla may return to Turkey. It did not provide further details.

Shares of Halkbank were unchanged at 7.11 lira at 0851 GMT, outperforming a 1.13 percent decline in the index of bank stocks.

New York prosecutors this month withdrew an appeal to extend Atilla’s sentence, which was set at 32 months in May, after he had already served 14 months.

Last month, Cavusoglu said after talks with U.S. officials in Washington that the two sides had discussed returning Atilla to Turkey where he can serve the rest of his sentence.

Erdogan has said he discussed the case of Halkbank with U.S. President Donald Trump, saying the talks were on a “positive path”.

The relations between the NATO allies have shown significant improvement after an American evangelical pastor, who had been in jail and house arrest in Turkey for two years, was freed in October.

The recent U.S. decision to withdraw from Syria has also lifted a major source of disagreement, one stemming from U.S. support for the Kurdish YPG militia. Ankara consider the militia a terrorist organisation.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Sarah Dadouch; Editing by David Dolan)

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