Turkey threatens retaliation against USA after sanctions

Turkey threatens retaliation against USA after sanctions

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders announced this afternoon that the Treasury Department was adding Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu to its sanctions list, saying they had played "leading roles" in the arrest and detention of USA pastor Andrew Brunson.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration will sanction Turkey's Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu over the holding of 50-year-old Andrew Craig Brunson.

While negotiations to release one of the people, evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson, are ongoing, the preparation of the so-called "designation packages" shows how close the USA has come to imposing unprecedented penalties against a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

Reuters separately reported on Tuesday that a Turkish court rejected Brunson's appeal to be released from house arrest while he stands trial. While negotiations for his release were ongoing, President Donald Trump promised "large sanctions" in a tweet Wednesday.

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

Last month Trump hit out on Twitter at Turkey over its decision to keep the pastor in custody after a Turkish court denied a request for the release of Andrew Brunson.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Turkish government refused to release Brunson "after numerous conversations" between President Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with his conversations with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Mr Brunson has denied charges of espionage, but faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

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The US has maintained that there is no credible evidence to support the charges brought against Brunson. That changed Wednesday when the Trump Administration followed through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey for taking an American hostage.

Turkish officials had already threatened to retaliate if Washington went ahead with sanctions.

"They can not make Turkey back down with sanctions", Erdogan said to Turkish media.

Ankara, however, transferred Brunson to house arrest last week instead of repatriating him to the United States, provoking Trump's fury. He is also charged with ties to the movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup.

The sanctions are modeled on those targeting the Russian government and oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, the people said, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"Clearly the goal is to send a message to those involved, and as with most sanctions, to increase the perception of a risk premium on Turkey", Ziemba said.

"Today's action dramatically underscores a glaring inconsistency: The White House continues to enforce Ankara's Armenian Genocide gag-rule even as its imposes sanctions against Turkey's increasingly anti-Armenian conduct".