Turkey’s Erdoğan calls Trump, Pence remarks ‘language of US evangelist, Zionist mentality’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday called sanction threats against Turkey by US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence “language of the US evangelist, Zionist mentality,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Trump and Pence last week stated that the United States would impose “large sanctions” on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.

The İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court on July 25 ruled to move Brunson from pretrial detention, in which he has been held since October 2016, to house arrest in İzmir but barred him from leaving the premises or the country. The same court the week before had ruled to keep Brunson, who faces 35 years in prison on espionage and terrorism charges, in prison, setting the next hearing for Oct. 12.

“Turkey does not have any problem with religious minorities. It is not possible to accept the threatening language of the US evangelist, Zionist mentality,” Erdoğan told reporters in Ankara.

“We will continue on the path we believe in without the slightest concession to our freedom, sovereignty or judicial independence,” added Erdoğan.

“We will not give credit to such threatening language.”

Erdoğan on Sunday also rebuffed remarks by Trump and Pence, saying Turkey would not retreat in the face of pressure and comparing the situation to US-imposed sanctions on Iran.

Calling Washington’s threat of sanctions “psychological warfare,” Erdoğan said: “They have to know: We are not dependent on America. We will continue with our people in solidarity as we have done up until now. The US should not forget that it will lose a strong and sincere partner if they do not change their attitude.”

Regarding a US Congress defense bill that would block the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless Ankara releases jailed US citizens and employees and cancels its purchase of an S-400 air defense system from Russia, President Erdoğan said Turkey would resort to international arbitration if the sale of F-35 jets to Ankara is blocked.

Turkish President Erdoğan in September had called on Washington to swap Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuse of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Meanwhile, according to a report by Bloomberg, the US administration has compiled a list of Turkish companies and individuals that it will target should it decide to impose sanctions on the country for imprisoning US citizens and employees of its diplomatic mission.

The preparation of the so-called “designation packages” shows how close the US has come to imposing unprecedented penalties against a NATO ally, wrote Benjamin Harvey, adding that ‘’the sanctions are modeled on those targeting the Russian government and oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.’’

Various US institutions, including Congress and the State Department, have been working on a potential sanctions list for Turkey for about a year or more. The possible sanctions package might target businessmen known for the close ties to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Erdoğan in addition to Turkish officials.

The people and entities determined in the designation packages are pending approval Treasury secretary and secretary of state, the article said.

Turkey’s troubled lira has dropped 3 percent since July 26, when Vice President Mike Pence also threatened sanctions over the Brunson case, Harvey wrote. The Turkish currency has had the second-worst performance in the world this year after Venezuela’s bolivar.

Experts from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington-based think tank, said the US should prepare for the worst in its future relations with Turkey.

The Turkish government has adopted an “aggressive nationalist strain” which is pushing it towards conflict with the United States, and recent political developments have left Turkey even more undemocratic and anti-American, said the authors of the CAP report, analysts Max Hoffman, Alan Makovsky and Michael Werz.

“Washington may have no choice but to accept the new reality,” they said and added, “Still, such a change in perspective, from viewing Turkey as a democratic ally to viewing it as an authoritarian state important to US foreign policy, inevitably will have consequences in terms of the quality and durability of bilateral ties; fundamentally, the United States should no longer be shy about bringing leverage to bear on Turkey.”

The United States should work to reduce its exposure to Turkey and begin supporting democratic elements in civil society, as it does in Iran, the authors said. They also recommend that Fethullah Gülen should be given a fair trial to determine whether he should be extradited. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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