USA slaps sanctions over charged pastor; Turkey vows reprisal
USA slaps sanctions over charged pastor; Turkey vows reprisal
Turkey vows retaliation in crisis with US over pastor
02 August, 2018, 07:56
The United States imposed sanctions on two top officials in Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's Cabinet on Wednesday in a new attempt to get North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey to turn over an American pastor accused of backing a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the sanctions would target Turkey's justice and interior ministers, whose agencies she said were responsible for the pastor's arrest and detention.
According to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, "Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable..."
Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, was placed under house arrest last week after almost two years in jail.
US pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey July 25, 2018.
Other analysts said the sanctions on Turkish government officials would likely harden Turkey's position on other key issues.
Brunson's detention has deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war, Turkey's plan to buy a missile defense system from Russian Federation, and planned USA sanctions on Iran - which supplies fuel to Turkey.
He wrote: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected US Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison".
In this case, the Treasury Department showed greater creativity in the use of financial sanctions to target just two senior officials - one of whom said on Twitter he had no US holdings - in order to send a clear message to a foreign ally.
On July 26, Trump announced in a tweet that if the Turkish government did not release Brunson, the US would impose "large" sanctions on Turkey. "It's time - once and for all - for the Trump-Pence Administration to take away Erdogan's veto of honest American remembrance of Turkey's World War I-era genocide and exile of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, and other Christian nations".
Turkish officials had already threatened to retaliate if Washington went ahead with sanctions. Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later on Wednesday.
But US Secretary Mike Pompeo held his third call in six days with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday to discuss Mr Brunson's detention.
Brunson, who was arrested in 2016 and is now under house arrest pending trial, denies Turkey's allegations. Turkey accuses the evangelical pastor of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and to exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the failed 2016 military coup.
The White House has not specified what sanctions might be imposed on Turkey.
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