Newshour, US hits Turkey with sanctions over jailed pastor

Kenny Grant
August 4, 2018

Their talks came after Washington imposed sanctions on two of Turkey's ministers over the trial of a USA pastor Andrew Craig Brunson accused of backing terrorism. Both countries are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, a plan that could be used as leverage in the dispute.

The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on USA soil held by the two ministers, and bar United States citizens from doing business with them.

The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the greenback following Washington's move in response to Turkey keeping Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest.

"This is one of the key risks for Turkey, but you also have the underlying structural weaknesses in the economy, which are exacerbating these geopolitical concerns".

Speaking on Friday ahead of the meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that USA sanctions on Turkey showed America is "very serious" about Brunson's release.

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After reports that the U.S. would sanction individuals over the case, the lira hit a record low of 5.01 against the dollar, before rallying slightly to 4.9.

"We have said since the beginning that threatening language and sanctions will not get any result", he said.

He acknowledged "lots of challenges" with Turkey, but said Washington and Ankara had been able to work closely and well together.

Brunson, 50, is being tried on espionage and terror-related charges, which he and the USA government vehemently deny. The Turkish government accuses Mr Brunson of links to the coup attempt of that year, and he faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The United States has also been seeking the release of three locally employed embassy staff detained in Turkey. "President Trump has made it abundantly clear that the United States expects Turkey to release him immediately". Pence, who has close ties to the evangelical Christian community, has been following proceedings since Brunson was arrested and pressing behind the scenes for action, aides said.

The Turkish leader has previously connected Brunson's return to the the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania. He was also charged with supporting outlawed Kurdish PKK militants. Gulen denies the claim.

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