US Threatens Further Turkey Sanctions if Pastor Not Freed Soon

Aug 18, 2018, 01:16
US Threatens Further Turkey Sanctions if Pastor Not Freed Soon

Turkey's battered lira weakened 5 percent on Friday after a Turkish court rejected a U.S. Christian pastor's appeal for release, a day after the United States warned of further sanctions unless Ankara hands over the detained minister.

Brunson, from North Carolina, is under house arrest as his trial on terrorism charges continues.

Brunson has now found himself in the middle of a diplomatic spat between the two countries, with US President Donald Trump authorizing new tariffs on steel an aluminium last week to put pressure on Ankara. "We have more that we are planning to do if they don't release him quickly".

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

"The Brunson case is a rallying call for evangelicals within the Republican base because you have a Christian pastor being held in a Muslim-majority country", Amanda Sloat of Brookings Institution told the newspaper.

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Turkey asked the United States to get a prisoner out of Israeli jail, which the USA did the next day, according to The Guardian . Not only would this help contain inflation but it would also help support the lira.

Turkey responded by increasing tariffs on imports from the United States including cars, alcoholic drinks and leaf tobacco - and the lira recovered slightly.

Turkey has sought to persuade the United States to spare Turkey's state-owned Halkbank from a threatened fine for allegedly helping Iran evade USA sanctions.

Turkey says Brunson has ties to political groups responsible for the 2016 attempted coup of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey and the USA are now experiencing rocky relations after Washington imposed sanctions on two Turkish Cabinet ministers for not releasing Brunson.

"It is a shame", Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday. To eliminate the possibility of Democrats taking control of Congress, Trump wants to bring out a larger number of evangelical voters by securing Brunson's release, the Financial Times said.

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The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday afternoon that Chinese and US negotiators are drawing up a road map for their trade talks next week. The Treasury Department earlier this month levied sanctions on two senior Turkish officials in retaliation for Brunson's continued detention.

Erdogan has remained defiant in the face of the crisis with Washington, saying Turkey could turn to new alternative markets.

But Washington's move has sent Turkey's financial markets into a tailspin: the Turkish lira plummeted more than 18 per cent at one point last Friday to a record low against the USA dollar.

Investors are concerned that Turkey has amassed high levels of foreign debt to fuel growth in recent years.

Turkey, in turn, criticized the prosecution in the US of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a top official at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank who was convicted of helping Iran avoid USA sanctions.

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The turmoil has raised fears of a looming economic crisis in Turkey and prompted alarm that foreign investors in the country, including Qatar, could be hit in the fallout.

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