US threatens more Turkey sanctions if pastor not freed

Jermaine Castillo
August 18, 2018

"We've put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members", Mnuchin said during a Cabinet meeting with Trump.

Security remains tight outside the building in Turkey where Brunson is being held. A senior U.S. official told CNN that in exchange for Turkey's release of Brunson, Israel agreed to release Ebru Ozkan, a 27-year-old Turkish woman held in Israel on suspicion of aiding Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza.

"And Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly", he added. Both Brunson and top United States officials say the accusations are false.

Obviously this raises the stakes of the USA imposing more sanctions.

The underlying economic cause for the crisis is simply a lack of confidence in Turkey's economy. Turkey's banking watchdog on Wednesday also moved to crack down on shorting of the lira.

In recent days, Qatari supporters of Turkey have begun a public campaign in Doha to change their riyals into lira in an attempt to shore up the plunging Turkish currency. However, it was still down 34 percent in 2018. Sterling dropped by more than 10% when it became clear that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.

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But while relations with the European Union are improving, there are no signs so far that Turkey or the USA are willing to back down.

The US doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports and Turkey hit back with $533 million of tariffs on some US imports that include cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks, with the additional warning it would boycott US electronics.

Qatar defied US President Donald Trump on Wednesday and promised to plough $15 billion into Turkish financial markets and banks.

Brunson, an Evangelical pastor residing in the coastal province of Izmir, is standing trial in Turkey over terrorism charges.

According to the Middle East Eye, officials in Ankara are willing to concede to United States demands for the freedom of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical preacher accused of playing a role in the attempted coup there in 2016.

With his relationship with the USA on the rocks, Erdogan has worked to strengthen his alliances in Europe and the Middle East.

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On the first day Trump threatened Turkey with sanctions for the treatment of Brunson, Vice President Mike Pence gave a prayer at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in which he said "to believers across America, I say a pray for pastor Brunson".

"Turkish-Qatari relations are based on solid foundations of true friendship and solidarity", he said.

Turkey's economy is in deep trouble, but the broader problem has less to do with Trump's sanctions and tariffs than with Erdogan's economic mismanagement. Turkey has retaliated with $533 million-worth of tariffs on US imports, including tobacco and alcohol.

However, it is not just Turkey that has something to lose in this crisis.

Why this tension between North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies?

It makes Turkey both more susceptible to instability, as well as a geopolitically valuable.

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