Published: Sat, August 18, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Bold statements fuel U.S.-Turkey feud over arrested pastor

Bold statements fuel U.S.-Turkey feud over arrested pastor

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday evening said that the United States could look to impose fresh sanctions on Turkey if President Erdogan doesn't release imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson.

The US has threatened to impose more economic sanctions on Turkey if it does not free a detained American pastor.

A high court in Izmir said on Friday Brunson would stay under house arrest, upholding a decision taken by a lower court earlier this week.

On Friday, the Turkish lira, which suffered record losses against the dollar earlier this week before recovering, fell about 5 percent, to about 6.11 to the dollar, after President Trump warned via Twitter that the country faces more punitive measures.

We've put sanctions on several of the cabinet members.

"They should have given him back a long time ago, and Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly", Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to Brunson.

"They have not proven to be a good friend", Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting.

"They want to hold our wonderful pastor", Trump added.

The Turkish currency fell again on Friday, breaking a three-day quiet spell in the country currency crisis, after the United States threatened to impose new sanctions on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country. He did not elaborate on what measures the USA is willing to take if Turkey continues to play hardball over Brunson. Turkish officials say the case is a matter for the courts.

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A Trump tweet last week announcing a doubling of aluminum and steel tariffs for Turkey triggered the rout in the currency markets.

"There has been no improvement in relations with the US and additional sanctions may be on the horizon", said William Jackson of Capital Economics in a note to clients, adding that the lira could see a downward trend in 2019 and beyond.

Turkey retaliated with some $533 million of tariffs on some USA imports - including cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks - and said it would boycott U.S. electronic goods.

Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressed hundreds of foreign investors from the United States, Europe and Asia via a conference call in a bid to soothe the markets.

Qatar, backed by Erdogan during the Saudi-led embargoes on the emirate in 2017, on Wednesday pledged to channel $15 billion of direct investment into Turkey, a sign of burgeoning ties between the two countries.

Mr Brunson is being held in a Turkish jail for allegedly supporting a group that Ankara blames for an attempted coup against Mr Erdogan in July 2016, a charge he fiercely denies.

Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet late Thursday: "We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!"

If he's not released, Pastor Brunson's next hearing is scheduled for October 12.

"Diplomatic negotiations hit speedbumps and that's not unusual in these kinds of situations", said Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump who is also representing Brunson's family.

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