US President Donald Trump has reiterated a threat over Turkey’s refusal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who the Trump administration believes is being illegally detained by the Turkish government, saying, “We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!”
Posting a message on his official Twitter account on Thursday afternoon, Trump tweeted: “Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!”
On Thursday US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional US sanctions were ready if Turkey refuses to release Brunson, Bloomberg reported.
President Trump also said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Thursday that Turkey has not turned out to be a great friend to the US, and he complained that his administration had secured the release of a Turkish citizen from an unnamed country on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s behalf.
“We got somebody out for him,” Trump said, from “some place,” but Turkey continues to hold pastor Andrew Brunson. It’s “not right” and a “terrible thing,” he said.
Mnuchin then said his department had prepared additional sanctions. The lira pared its gains for the day on the news.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has reiterated his criticism of the US’s current political stance against Turkey as American officials continued to threaten Ankara over the arrest of Brunson.
“The US does not know, it cannot see who its true friend is. We can easily solve problems with the US but not with its current mindset,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters during his closing speech at the 10th Ambassadors’ Conference in Ankara on Thursday. Çavuşoğlu’s remarks came after US President Trump’s statement on Twitter.
Turkey’s currency remains relatively steady against the dollar despite an apparent threat of possible new sanctions by President Trump. The Turkish lira stood at 5,80 per dollar on Friday, up about 0,4 percent against the dollar.
The currency had recovered earlier this week. Investors, already worried about Turkey’s economy, were irked by the diplomatic and trade dispute with the United States over the continued detention of Brunson on espionage and terror-related charges.
On Aug. 1 relations between Ankara and Washington nosedived when the US imposed sanctions on two Turkish Cabinet ministers after Turkey refused to release the pastor.
Last week, Trump ramped up his attack on Ankara by doubling tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively. In response, Turkey raised tariffs on several US-made goods, including alcohol and tobacco products and vehicles.
Brunson was put under house arrest by a Turkish court after almost two years of incarceration on charges of “terrorism.”