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Trump threatens sanctions on Turkey over pastor
02:11 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Turkey’s president lashed out at the US during a defiant speech Sunday, as the lira crumbled further following President Donald Trump’s approval of higher tariffs and the threat of sanctions over an imprisoned pastor.

In the speech to supporters in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country would not acquiesce to US pressure, and that the Trump administration’s actions were threatening the two countries’ longstanding alliance.

“I want them to know that we will not surrender. We will keep producing and we will keep increasing exports,” he said. “We will not give in… if you come at us with your dollars then we will find other ways to do business… The US is sacrificing its 81-million-strong ally Turkey for a pastor with links with terrorists.”

Erdogan was referring to Andrew Brunson, a American evangelical pastor who Turkey accuses of helping to plot a 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish president. US officials maintain there is no credible evidence against Brunson, and the Trump administration has negotiated for weeks to secure his release.

On Friday, Trump approved a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey and warned that US relations with the country “are not good at this time.” It was not immediately clear when the tariffs are due to take effect.

‘Slaves to the dollar’

In his remarks Sunday, Erdogan said the US gave Turkey a deadline of last Wednesday to release Brunson or face further sanctions.

In revealing details of negotiations held between the two NATO allies, Erdogan said: “They are going to make us slaves to the dollar. Foreign exchange, interests… so what? They (US) said, ‘if you don’t release the pastor by 6 p.m. on Wednesday we will start sanctions.’ They are going to sanction our interior and justice minister.”

The United States slapped sanctions against Turkey’s interior and justice ministers earlier this month, in response to Brunson’s detention. Turkey responded by ordering the freezing of assets related to the US “justice and interior” secretaries.

The US State Department declined to comment on Turkey’s allegations of a Wednesday deadline on the release of the American pastor.

In a New York Times opinion piece Friday, Erdogan said the decision to impose further sanctions “was unacceptable, irrational and ultimately detrimental to our longstanding friendship.”

Held for two years

Brunson was arrested in Turkey in 2016 as the government launched a crackdown against perceived enemies in the wake of a failed military coup.

He was formally indicted in March on charges of espionage and having links to terrorist organizations. The charges against Brunson include supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party as well as the Gulen Movement, which Turkey says orchestrated the coup attempt.

He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. His trial is set to resume in October.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) says that the charges are not legitimate and that Brunson was arrested primarily because of his Christian faith. US officials, including US Ambassador to Turkey John R. Bass, similarly said the accusations have no merit.

turkey flag
Trump threatens sanctions on Turkey over pastor
02:11 - Source: CNN