White House Sanctions Turkey Officials Over Detention of US Pastor

Daniel Fowler
August 2, 2018

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on two top government officials in Turkey Wednesday over the continued house arrest of an American pastor working there.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions Wednesday against the Turkish government in response to the detention of an American minister there.

But the spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, also said Turkey expects the two countries to resolve their differences through diplomacy and that foreign ministers from each side were planning to hold talks, Reuters reported.

"We call on the U.S. administration to turn back from this wrong decision".

President Donald Trump is following through on threats to sanction Turkey for the arrest and detention of American Pastor Andrew Brunson.

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have spiralled into a full-blown crisis over the trial of the Christian pastor, who was held for 21 months in a Turkish prison until his transfer to house arrest last week - a move Washington dismissed as insufficient.

Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former senior State Department official, said while the administration has engaged with Turkey diplomatically to address irritants in the relationship, Congress has taken a harder line and played "bad cop". Relations between the United States and Turkey have plummeted over Brunson, who was in custody for 21 months in a Turkish prison until he was transferred to house arrest last week.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his American counterpart of waging "psychological warfare" against Turkey over the pastor and warned that the U.S. may lose "a strong and honest ally" in Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during this week's meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Turkish lira, which has been in decline against the dollar for most of 2018, fell to a record low of five per dollar on Wednesday after dropping 1.7 percent of its value following the sanctions' announcement.

Turkey issued a written statement to "protest" the new sanctions.

Brunson's next hearing is October 12.

Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as a pastor before he was detained more than a year ago for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016. And they have had lawmakers' bipartisan backing in the campaign to obtain Brunson's release. "Suffice it to say I think these are totally appropriate measures to take in order to deal with the Turkish government's hostage taking", he said, "not only of Pastor Brunson but also other Americans and the USA government's local employees".

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