President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will stand its ground after US President Donald Trump threatened to slap sanctions on Ankara if it does not free an American pastor, broadcaster Haberturk reported on Sunday.
Relations between the United States and Turkey are on the line in the dispute over pastor Andrew Brunson, Erdogan was quoted as saying by TRT Haber and other media outlets.
Trump on Thursday threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey unless it freed Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years and has been accused of helping the group Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016.
The pastor, who has denied the charges, is now under house arrest and faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
“We will not step back when faced with sanctions,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “They should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner.”
Brunson, who is from North Carolina, was transferred to house arrest last week after 21 months of detention in a Turkish prison.
Israel confirmed on Friday that Trump had requested the release of a Turkish woman accused of ties to Hamas.
Israel deported Ebru Ozkan on July 15 and media reported that Washington was hoping Turkey would release Brunson in exchange.
Erdogan confirmed that Turkey had asked for US help in securing the return to Turkey of Ozkan, Haberturk reported, but denied any deal to release Brunson in exchange.
“We told the US that they might help for released and innocent Ebru to get back her passport and return to Turkey,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by Haberturk.
“However, we did not say we will give you Brunson in return.”
Reuters and Algemeiner Staff