President Donald Trump said he’ll impose “large sanctions” on Turkey over the detention of an American pastor, plunging relations between the two NATO allies to a new low and extending a rout on Turkish financial markets.
Andrew Brunson, an evangelical minister detained on charges of involvement in a failed 2016 coup in Turkey, is “a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” Trump said in a tweet Thursday. “He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded on Twitter, saying that no one can dictate to his country. “We will never tolerate threats from anyone,” he said.
The episode is the latest in a series of crises between the longtime allies. The U.S. has slammed Turkey’s plans to buy a missile defense system from Russia, an issue that has already raised the threat of American sanctions. The countries have also clashed over the war in Syria, where Turkey has increasingly acted in concert with Russia and Iran. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames the U.S. for backing Kurdish militants in Syria, and harboring the alleged mastermind behind the coup attempt against his government.
The Turkish lira extended losses, leading declines among global currencies. It slumped 1.8 percent to 4.86 per dollar, close to a record low, at 8 p.m. in Istanbul.
Neither Trump nor the White House offered any immediate details about the measures that the U.S. may take, or how soon they may be imposed. Earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence also blasted Turkey over the pastor’s detention.
Erdogan’s government arrested Brunson in 2016 and indicted him last year on charges of espionage and attempting to overthrow the state. On Wednesday, after a year-and-a-half in jail, he was released to house arrest.
But that move didn’t assuage U.S. anger.
The escalation of the dispute by Trump and Pence on Thursday reflects frustration over the breakdown of a diplomatic deal that was supposed to have seen Brunson freed and deported back home, according to a person familiar with negotiations. The agreement broke down when Turkey increased its demands for a quid pro quo, calling for the abandonment of U.S. legal action against a Turkish bank blamed for helping evade Iran sanctions, the person said.
(c) 2018, Bloomberg · Jennifer Epstein