Erdoğan says US threats and blackmail against Turkey will only hurt itself

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday targeted the US, which has imposed sanctions on Turkey over the continued detention and trial of an American pastor, saying that Ankara will counter Washington within the limits of diplomacy and the law, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“America has embarked on a wrong direction by choosing the language of threats and blackmail instead of dialogue for the solution of the political and legal problems between the two countries. This method, which supposedly aims to exact a toll on us [Turkey], indeed inflicts the biggest damage on America in the short and long term,” said Erdoğan during a speech at the Turkish Parliament’s general assembly.

“We are determined to fight back within the limits of diplomacy and the law against this distorted understanding, which tries to impose sanctions on our country by using the excuse of a pastor who is being tried for his dark relations with terrorist organizations,” he added.

Erdoğan said he hopes to improve political and economic relations with the US in accordance with the spirit of strategic partnership.

Meanwhile, Cansu Çamlıbel wrote in the pro-government Hürriyet Daily News on Monday that if Ankara fails to pull a rabbit out of the hat in less than two weeks, before the next hearing in the trial of US pastor Andrew Brunson, then no one can stop US President Donald Trump imposing new sanctions on Turkey.

The pastor is on trial for aiding and abetting both the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Brunson, who denies the charges, faces up to 35 years behind bars. The Trump administration has repeatedly called for his release, sanctioning Turkish ministers and increasing metals tariffs in response to Turkey’s refusal to free him.

At the United Nations General Assembly last week, US officials insisted that if President Erdoğan was not going to come up with a commitment on Brunson’s release, there would be no point in bringing the two presidents together in a one-on-one meeting, Çamlıbel said.

“My impression is that as long as Washington tries to keep Ankara on edge with coercive public declarations, pastor Brunson’s release would be in further jeopardy. I heard there are people in government circles who not only oppose Brunson’s release but advocate for his return to jail,’’ the columnist said.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Turkey’s failure to release Brunson may result in increased sanctions, this time targeting the Turkish business community, said Çamlıbel.

Tensions between the US and Turkey have escalated in recent months over the detention of Brunson, a Christian evangelical pastor standing trial on terrorism-related charges tied to a failed 2016 coup.

The US slapped sanctions on two Turkish government ministers in August, to which Turkey responded by sanctioning two US Cabinet secretaries. When Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey, Erdoğan retaliated with tariffs on alcohol, cars and tobacco and the threat of a boycott on American electronics.

The spat has deepened troubles for the already struggling Turkish economy and helped drive a more than 40 percent decline in the Turkish lira this year.

Erdoğan said on Sept. 25 that a Turkish court, not politicians, would decide the fate of Brunson. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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