Trump Says U.S. Won't Pay Turkey for Pastor's Release

Ivan Schwartz
August 18, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday lashed out at Turkey, saying Washington will pay "nothing" to Ankara for the release of a detained American pastor.

The United States will take further action against Turkey if it continues to detain American pastor Andrew Brunson, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday in a sign that tensions between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies will continue to escalate over the issue.

"We have more that we're planning to do if they don't release him quickly", Mnuchin said during a White House cabinet meeting on Thursday, according to pool reporters.

US Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey Hovelier has visited US pastor Andrew Brunson who is being held under house arrest in Izmir. Trump, who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters, has increasingly championed the pastor's case.

"Certainly it has been a very dramatic war of words between Ankara and Washington and Trump has made no bones about the financial repercussions that the U.S. is willing to undertake".

The lira has lost almost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, driven by worries over Erdogan's growing influence on the economy and his refusal to raise interest rates despite high inflation.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said France and Germany are standing with Turkey in the rift with the US.

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!"

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He also urged Brunson to serve as a "great patriot hostage" while he is jailed and criticized Turkey for "holding our wonderful Christian Pastor".

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that solving the rift with the United States is not hard.

Turkey's currency nosedived last week after Mr Trump doubled tariffs on Turkey's steel and aluminium exports to 50% and 20% respectively. His transfer to house arrest came after Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assist in Brunson's release, Israeli and United States officials told CNN at the time.

But economists have said they want to see decisive moves by the central bank, rather than technical measures.

Mr Erdogan earlier wrote in the New York Times that unless the United States changed course, Turkey would look for new friends and allies.

In fact, Arriaga says all Americans can apply pressure by hitting Turkey where it hurts the most - in the pocketbook by avoiding buying Turkish goods.

Qatar also reportedly instructed some influential Qatari businessmen to buy more Turkish lira to boost the currency's resilience and speed the recovery process for Turkey.

Brunson, called a "great patriot hostage" by President Donald Trump, has spent the better part of the past two years in Turkish prisons or other forms of detention, over alleged links to outlawed political groups.

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

Other reports by GizPress

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