Erdogan Slams 'Evangelist' US as Pastor's Detention Roils Ties

Erdogan Slams 'Evangelist' US as Pastor's Detention Roils Ties

Erdogan Slams 'Evangelist' US as Pastor's Detention Roils Ties

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose "large sanctions" on Turkey unless Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor arrested on charges of involvement in a coup attempt in 2016, is released.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday it had designated Turkey's justice minister, Abdulhamit Gul, and interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, for their role in pastor Andrew Brunson's "unfair and unjust detention".

"Pastor Brunson's unjust detention and continued prosecution by Turkish officials is simply unacceptable", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement formally announcing the financial restrictions.

Speaking privately to journalists late Saturday, President Erdogan broke his silence on the crisis, saying the USA can't use sanctions to make Turkey back down.

The U.S. has repeatedly extended deadlines to release Brunson or face sanctions, according to Turkish and U.S. officials familiar with the talks.

"Give him [Gulen] to us, and we will try [Brunson] and give him back", Erdogan said in September.

"By focusing it narrowly on Brunson and personalizing it, it weakens the USA position and makes it harder for Turkey to resolve this", said Eissenstat.

Brunson's detention has deepened a rift between Washington and Ankara, which are also at odds over the Syrian war, Turkey's plan to buy a missile defense system from Russian Federation, and planned US sanctions on Iran - which supplies fuel to Turkey.

Vice President Pence has also said the administration would impose sanctions on Turkey if Brunson was not released.

But the spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, also said Turkey expects the two countries to resolve their differences through diplomacy and that foreign ministers from each side were planning to hold talks, Reuters reported.

Eissenstat said Turkey's failure to understand United States outrage over Brunson's imprisonment - particularly in Congress - played a role in the diplomatic crisis.

Mr Brunson has been in a Turkish jail since October 2016 for allegedly being a threat to national security.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu tweeted, "We will not be able to resolve our problems unless the USA administration realizes that it can not reach its unlawful demands through this method".

Turkey has strongly protested the United States and said it will retaliate the sanctions imposed on justice and interior ministers in the same way and without delay.

Earlier Wednesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed his country would not give in to threats from the U.S. over Brunson and accused Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality".

Brunson risks up to 35 years in jail over charges that he acted on behalf of two groups viewed as terrorists by Ankara: the movement led by Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's Foreign Ministry was expected to release a statement later Wednesday. James Lankford, R-Okla., a key leader in congressional efforts to sanction Turkey.

Turkey and the United States are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, and Congress is considering canceling the transfer of two F-35 fighter jets to Turkey.

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