Turkey refuses to release pastor despite threat of USA sanctions

Lester Mason
August 18, 2018

In a tweet on Thursday, Trump urged Brunson to serve as a "great patriot hostage" while he is jailed and criticized Turkey for "holding our wonderful Christian Pastor". The two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been at loggerheads for months over a host of diplomatic issues, namely Turkey's refusal to release an American pastor and differences over their handling of the Syrian conflict.

On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested during a cabinet meeting that the next spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions was coming soon, deepening the spat that has rattled financial markets.

In recent weeks, the USA has sanctioned a pair of Turkish cabinet members, and dramatically increased tariffs against the nation, fueling anger among Turkish leaders and creating economic uncertainty across the region.

Dashing hopes for a quick solution to the dispute, a Turkish court on Friday rejected an appeal for the evangelical pastor's release from house detention.

Washington has already placed a series of sanctions against Turkey, including last week's announcement of a doubling of tariffs on metal imports into the USA from Turkey.

Turkey responded by increasing tariffs on imports from the USA including cars, alcoholic drinks and leaf tobacco - and the lira recovered slightly.

Trump prefaced Mnuchin's remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend.

The lira's collapse has plunged the entirety of the emerging market space into chaos, with contagion causing the likes of the South African rand, the Argentine peso, and the Indonesian rupiah, to slump in response. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican People's Party, said Thursday in Ankara, the capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed solidarity with Turkey during a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The lira has staged a small recovery but that is threatened by a fresh tweet from US President Donald Trump.

"The secret to successful states is their readiness for war. We are ready with everything we have", Erdogan said, according to Ahval.


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.

Turkey, he said, has no plans to seek help from the International Monetary Fund or impose capital controls to stop money flowing overseas in response to the recent collapse of its lira currency.

Upholding a lower court's decision earlier this week, the higher court also ruled against lifting a travel ban imposed on Mr Brunson.

UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has hit out at Qatar's pledge to make a $15 billion direct investment in Turkey.

For years Turkish firms have borrowed in dollars to take advantage of lower interest rates. Turkey, meanwhile, is frustrated by the refusal of the U.S.to extradite a Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkish authorities of engineering a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey and its firms face repayments of almost $3.8 billion on foreign currency bonds in October, Societe General calculated. For companies, the cost of servicing foreign debt has risen by a quarter in lira terms in the past two months alone.

Standard & Poor's is scheduled to release a review of Turkey's sovereign credit rating after market close on Friday.

Kristina Arriaga, vice chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, recently returned from Turkey.

There are flaws with Turkey's gambit, including the fact that the funds from Qatar are not as reliable a proposition as IMF-branded liquidity, and they are small relative to Turkey's external funding needs. "They should have given him back a long time ago". Brunson's lawyer said he would appeal again in 15 days.

On Monday, the central bank said it would provide all the liquidity Turkish banks needed, as it seeks to keep money flowing in the financial system.

"This is what happens when you choose to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds", Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and global relations scholar, told Arab News. Turkey is dependent on imports, priced in hard currency, for nearly all of its energy needs.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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