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Iran Press TV

US ready to hit Turkey with more sanction if pastor not released: Mnuchin

Iran Press TV

Fri Aug 17, 2018 07:35AM

The US has warned that it is ready to impose more sanctions on Turkey if Ankara refuses to release a jailed American pastor; a threat that is likely to draw more harsh reactions from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told President Trump in a cabinet meeting attended by the press on Thursday. "We have more that we are planning to do if they don't release him quickly."

The threat of new sanctions made it clear that no immediate end was in sight to the showdown between Ankara and Washington that has rattled financial markets and strained decades of strong military and political alliance.

Bilateral ties have spiraled into a full-blown crisis over the trial of Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor, who is accused of having links with perpetrators of a failed military coup against Erdogan in 2016.

The row has seen Ankara put around $500 million of tariffs on some US imports and boycott American electronic products in retaliation for the Trump administration's sanctions on some Turkish officials.

The US president announced on Twitter last week that he had authorized a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, stating that relations between the two NATO allies "are not good at this time!"

Turkey shot back on Friday, threatening to respond if the United States levied further sanctions.

"We've already responded based on the World Trade Organization rules and will continue to do so," Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, was at 5.8 against the dollar and 6.7 against euro on Friday.

Trump asks Turkey to free 'great patriot' priest

The US present had harsh words for Turkish officials during the cabinet session, saying, "They have not proven to be a good friend."

Trump then called Brunson a "very innocent man" and said his arrest was "not fair, not right." He went on Twitter to describe the priest as a "great patriot" taken "hostage" by Turkey.

Lira plunges amid crisis, Turkey says still in control

The row has caused Turkish lira to crash to an all-time low against the US dollar, prompting Turkish officials to take emergency measures.

In a bid to soothe the markets, Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak went on record on Thursday to reassure investors that Ankara was still in control.

"Turkey will emerge stronger from these (currency) fluctuations," said Albayrak, who is also Erdogan's son-in-law.

The lira sank to an unprecedented 7.24 to the dollar on Monday, drawing expert warnings that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had to intervene before it was too late.

Turkey, however, is confident that an IMF bailout is not necessary because the government has been able to turn the tide.

"We will turn this crisis into an opportunity," Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters, noting that Ankara's response had led to a "rapid improvement process" over the last two days.

Erdogan determined to fight back

While many experts had predicted that Erdogan would back down to save ties with the US, the Turkish president's moves over the past days have indicated otherwise.

Speaking to his supporters on Tuesday, Erdogan slammed the US for using the economy as a "weapon" and said the Turkey was facing an "economic attack" and a "bigger, deeper operation."

A day earlier, he said the US was seeking to stab Turkey "in the back" by sending the lira into a tailspin.

"You act on one side as a strategic partner but on the other you fire bullets into the foot of your strategic partner," Erdogan said. "We are together in NATO and then you seek to stab your strategic partner in the back. Can such a thing be accepted?"

Pledging to stand his ground, Erdogan has also hinted at leaving the Western military alliance and "start looking for new friends and allies."

In an article for the New York Times, published last Friday, the Turkish leader said Turkey "had rushed to America's help whenever necessary" in various times, from the Cold War to the more recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

"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," he asserted.

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