Turkey and the U.S. are on the verge of overcoming a major hurdle. A Turkish court ruled Friday to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held in Turkey since 2016 on charges of helping terrorist groups. News of a deal between Turkey and the U.S. on the pastor’s release emerged Thursday. Also on Thursday, the value of the struggling Turkish lira rose 3 percent, welcome news for Ankara considering the Turkish economy’s recent woes. Just today, the central bank chief said that, despite tighter monetary policy, inflation – which reached a whopping 24.5 percent last month – could still climb even higher. But more important, Brunson’s release could remove a critical roadblock in U.S.-Turkey relations, which seemed close to their breaking point just two months ago. In the end, it appears the Brunson issue was mere politics.

There’s a new schism in the Orthodox Christian Church. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, considered the central church of the modern Orthodox churches, has declared that it would be willing to grant a united Ukrainian church the status of autocephaly (meaning its bishop would not have to report to higher-ranking bishops) and remove the Kiev Metropolis from the patriarch of Moscow’s jurisdiction. The Moscow Patriarchate promised the Russian Orthodox Church would have a “firm and tough response” to the move. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson also criticized the decision and said Russia would protect the interests of Orthodox Christians, just as it protects “ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking population everywhere.” To be clear, a united, independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church hasn’t been formed just yet – that’s contingent on a congress of Ukrainian churches to be held at a future date. But in terms of the relationship between Ukraine and Russia, and the cultural gap between the two, the move is significant, as is Russia’s stated desire to be the protector of Orthodox Christians everywhere.

The number of migrants to Spain has spiked. According to the Spanish coast guard, 957 migrants have attempted to reach Spain in the past 24 hours – 100 more than the total number for all of March. This is part of a recent surge in migrants to the country: Last month, 8,054 people arrived there by sea, one of the highest monthly totals Spain has ever recorded. It’s normal for migration to spike at the end of the summer because of cooler weather, but even the Spanish Interior Ministry said yesterday that the surge is “unusual,” adding that it was working with the EU, Morocco and others to address the issue. The reason for the spike is unclear, but if it continues, it may put significant pressure on the EU, which has already clashed with Italy over this very issue.

Honorable Mentions:

  • China’s exports last month were up 14.5 percent year on year, and its trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record $34.1 billion.
  • Hundreds of Croats in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, protested the election of a moderate as the Croat member of the country’s three-member presidency.
  • The Italian Senate has approved a budget that is generating angst in the European Union; it will go to the Italian Cabinet for approval on Monday.
  • A U.S. State Department spokesperson said India’s decision to buy oil from Iran and S-400s from Russia is “not helpful.”
  • The Japanese government has unveiled potential changes to foreign labor rules to allow blue-collar workers to stay in Japan permanently to make up for the aging country’s labor shortfall. Previous plans have emphasized highly skilled workers.
  • Russia’s energy minister says the country will not supply Belarus with motor fuel and fuel oil for the rest of the year.