As tensions continue to escalate between the two NATO countries, The United States has threatened to impose more sanctions on Turkey if Christian pastor and United States citizen Andrew Brunson is not released from captivity by Turkish president President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We’ve put sanctions on several of their cabinet members, working with you (President Trump), we have more that we’re planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin told President Donald Trump during a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Brunson, a 50-year-old pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 23 years, was accused by the Turkish government of aiding terror groups during a coup in 2016. He was arrested in October that same year.
The United States government has insisted that Brunson is an innocent man, with President Donald Trump calling the charges against him “phony.”
“They should have given back a long time ago,” Trump told reporters Friday. “We haven’t seen the last of that. We are not going to take this sitting down.”
“(T)he U.S. government is following Pastor Andrew Brunson’s case closely, and we continue to provide all appropriate consular services to Mr. Brunson,” a State Department official said Friday. “We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and we call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner.”
As reported by CBS News, “The United States has already imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Turkey retaliated with some $533 million of tariffs on some U.S. imports — including cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks — and said it would boycott U.S. electronic goods.”
On Thursday, Trump also said that The United States will “pay nothing for the release of an innocent man.”
The Trump administration has spent weeks negotiating Brunson’s release, so far with no success.
Erdogan has criticized the United States for its handling of the situation, saying it threatens the nations’ “partnership.”
“Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy,” Erdogan said.
“Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives. Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”
On Friday, a high court rejected Brunson’s appeal to be set free.
He faces 35 years in prison if he is not released.
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