U.S. threatens more Turkey sanctions if pastor not freed

Dwayne Harmon
August 17, 2018

The White House said Wednesday that the United States "won't forget" how Turkey treated Andrew Brunson, the detained American pastor, after a court rejected his appeal for release.

Tensions between Turkey and the USA have been on the rise as Trump has pressed for the release of the pastor.

The Trump administration has threatened to levy more sanctions against Turkey, a move that has rattled the nation's financial markets.

The two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been at loggerheads for months over a host of diplomatic issues, namely Turkey's refusal to release an American pastor and differences over their handling of the Syrian conflict.

Last week, the U.S. doubled its tariffs on metal imports from Turkey.

On Friday, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said her government would respond to any new trade duties imposed on the country, whose currency has plunged in recent weeks.

"President Trump's imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum is about protecting American national security", the spokesperson said.

Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan's son-in-law, and his Qatari counterpart Ali Sharif Al-Emadi were present at the talks in the capital Ankara.

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Turkey, however, is confident that an International Monetary Fund bailout is not necessary because the government has been able to turn the tide.

In the meantime, ordinary Turkish citizens continue to back the boycott.

It received another boost on Wednesday when Qatar's emir approved a package of economic projects, investments and deposits worth $15 billion after he met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. He has tweeted the United States will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man after the White House confirmed it has prepared to impose more sanctions.

"You act on one side as a strategic partner but on the other you fire bullets into the foot of your strategic partner", Erdogan said.

"This is what happens when you choose to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds", Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and global relations scholar, told Arab News.

Pledging to stand his ground, Erdogan has also hinted at leaving the Western military alliance and "start looking for new friends and allies".

"There has been no improvement in relations with the USA 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.

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