United States threatens more action against Turkey unless pastor freed

Gladys Abbott
August 18, 2018

A court in Turkey has rejected an appeal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest, saying evidence was still being collected and he posed a potential flight risk.

Tensions between Turkey and the U.S. have been on the rise as Trump has pressed for the release of the pastor. Upholding a lower court's decision earlier this week, it also ruled against lifting a travel ban imposed on Brunson.

U.S. sanctions and tariffs have contributed to a tumble in the Turkish lira, which dropped in value to 5.86 to the dollar on Friday following Mnuchin's warning.

"We've put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members", Mnuchin said during a Cabinet meeting with Trump. It's not clear how much more they'd be willing to contribute if the USA just keeps making things worse.

"They have not proven to be a good friend", Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting.

"Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years".

"We have responded to the measures the United States has taken, and will continue to do so based on our global trade law rights and in accordance to World Trade Organization rules", said the minister, Ruhsar Pekcan.

Investors, already anxious about Turkey's economy, were irked by a diplomatic and trade dispute with the United States over the continued detention of an American pastor Andrew Brunson on espionage and terror-related charges.

Trump tweeted on August 10 that he has authorized a doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports as their currency Lira slides rapidly downward against the US dollar.

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He later tweeted that the Protestant clergyman, who has been detained since 2016 when he was arrested in a government crackdown following a failed coup bid, was a "great patriot" being held "hostage".

"There has been no improvement in relations with the US and additional sanctions may be on the horizon", said William Jackson of Capital Economics in a note to clients, adding that the lira could see a downward trend in 2019 and beyond.

Donald Trump is once again turning the heat on Turkey with the detention of an American pastor. Brunson's next hearing is scheduled for October 12.

On Wednesday, Qatar announced that it would provide Turkey with "a host of economic projects, investments and deposits" worth a collective of $15 billion in a bid to support Turkey's economy.

Tweeting later on Friday, Le Maire said, "Constructive talks with my Turkish counterpart Berat Albayrak, following talks between Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan".

The Qatari emir said that beyond financial calculations, his country's primary motivation was to "stand by our brothers in Turkey", a hint at the nascent but apparently strong strategic alliance between the two Muslim countries.

The 50-year-old faces 35 years in prison, which would amount to a life sentence.

Yesterday, US president Donald Trump said: 'They should have given him back a long time ago and Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly.

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