US President Donald Trump on Monday ruled out agreeing to any demands from Turkey to gain the release of a detained American pastor and said he was not concerned that his tough stance could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.
Trump said in an exclusive interview with Reuters that he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan when he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen. He had thought Erdoğan would then release pastor Andrew Brunson, who denies Turkey’s allegations that he was involved in a plot against Erdoğan two years ago.
“I think it’s very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” he said.
Turkey has demanded that the United States hand over Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric in the United States accused by Erdoğan and his government of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016, but the United States has balked at this.
Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum in response to Erdoğan’s refusal to free Brunson, raising concerns of economic damage in Europe and in emerging market economies.
“I’m not concerned at all. I’m not concerned. This is the proper thing to do,” he said, when asked about the potential damage to other economies.
Trump said Erdoğan had wanted the Turkish citizen returned from Israel.
Trump and Erdoğan met in Brussels for a NATO summit in mid-July where they discussed Brunson’s case and what could be the way forward to release the pastor, a senior White House official said earlier.
Turkey had sought US help to persuade the Israelis to release a Turkish woman who was being held in Israel, the senior official said. In exchange, Turkey would release Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkey.
Trump said he kept his side of the bargain.
“I got that person out for him. I expect him to let this very innocent and wonderful man and great father and great Christian out of Turkey,” Trump said.
The dispute threatens to intensify a split between the United States and Turkey, a key NATO ally that plans to buy a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
Israel, which confirmed that Trump had requested Ebru Özkan’s release, deported her on July 15.
Ankara has denied ever agreeing to free Brunson in return.
Trump added: “I like Turkey. I like the people of Turkey very much. Until now I had a very good relationship as you know with the president. I got along with him great. I had a very good relationship. But it can’t be a one-way street. It’s no longer a one-way street for the United States.”
Erdoğan’s ultra-nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said on Monday that US President Trump has gone over the limit and does not listen what he says and that therefore “nothing about him is to be taken seriously.”
“He speaks via Twitter, but he can’t read what he writes,” Bahçeli told journalists, during a visit to a monument dedicated to “Grey Wolf martyrs” before the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha, which starts on Tuesday. “The Turkish Republic remains strong in this case. The US will do whatever Turkey wants here. I believe that,” Bahçeli said.
Bahçeli and President Erdoğan have been allies since a referendum in 2017 that introduced an executive presidency in Turkey. Bahçeli’s party backed Erdoğan’s presidential re-election bid in the elections on June 24.
Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) said in a press release on Monday that Turkey had filed a complaint against US metals tariffs, Sputnik reported.
“Turkey has requested WTO dispute consultations with the United States concerning additional import duties imposed by the United States on steel and aluminum products. The request was circulated to WTO members on 20 August,” the release said.
Turkey and the United States have 60 days to find a solution through discussions; otherwise, Turkey can request adjudication by a panel.
Last week, Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said Ankara would challenge Washington’s decision to double tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Turkey at the WTO. (SCF with turkishminute.com)