Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that his country could not remain silent over the use of sanctions as weapons while it is in a bitter standoff with the United States over the fate of an American evangelical Christian pastor detained by Ankara.
The United States has called for the release of pastor Andrew Brunson, who was moved to house arrest in July after being detained for 21 months. If found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 35 years. He denies the charges.
Turkey says the United States should respect the legal process for the pastor, whose trial in Turkey on terrorism charges has infuriated US President Donald Trump. “None of us can remain silent to the arbitrary cancellation of commercial agreements and the use of economic sanctions as weapons,” Erdogan said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
In August, Trump authorised a doubling of duties on aluminium and steel imported from Turkey.
Turkey responded in kind, raising tariffs on US cars, alcohol and tobacco imports. The Trump administration has also imposed sanctions on two top officials in Erdogan’s cabinet as part of its efforts to pressure Turkey into freeing Brunson.
“Today, some countries are persistently trying to create chaos. We are in favour of solving our problems through conducting a constructive dialogue on equal terms,” Erdogan said. However, the Turkish lira firmed slightly yesterday as investors weighed up the prospect of an improvement in Turkey-US ties after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he expected talks this week over Brunson’s fate.
Erdogan’s communication adviser Fahrettin Altun posted on Twitter a picture of Erdogan and Trump shaking hands and smiling at the United Nations. Ankara and Washington are also at odds over diverging interests in Syria, where Washington supports Kurdish rebels whom Turkey regards as terrorists.
“Those who equip terrorists with tens of thousands of trucks and thousands of cargo planes loaded with arms for the sake of their tactical interests will most definitely feel sorrow in the future,” Erdogan said.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019