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Trump threatens Turkey with new sanctions as feud escalates

Relations between US and Turkey took a further turn for the worse, as Washington warned Ankara with more economic sanctions in the last hours unless the latter releases US pastor Andrew Brunson.

The US ‘will pay nothing’ to Turkey for the release of detained pastor, President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday morning and called Brunson a “wonderful Christian pastor” and a “great patriot hostage.”

Trump posted the tweet just hours after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured him at a Cabinet meeting that sanctions were ready to be put in place if Brunson was not freed.

“We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” Mnuchin said during the meeting.

The United States and Turkey have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs in an escalating attempt by Trump to induce Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into giving up Brunson, who denies charges that he was involved in a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago.

“They have not proven to be a good friend,” Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting. “They have a great Christian pastor there. He’s an innocent man.”

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had issued a blunt warning to Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic when he met him on Monday at the White House, an administration official said on Thursday.

When Kilic sought to tie conditions to Brunson’s release, Bolton waved them aside and said there would be no negotiations.

“Release Brunson,” Bolton told him, according to the official, who declined to be named, CNBC reports.

Turkey has sought to persuade the United States to spare Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank from a threatened fine for allegedly helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Ankara also wanted Washington to hand over Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who Turkey suspects of plotting the coup against Erdogan. Gulen denies the allegations.

“They missed a big opportunity. This is very easy to resolve,” the administration official said. “They made a big mistake trying to tie this to other things.”

The dispute over Brunson and other frictions between Washington and Ankara have been one reason the Turkish lira has plunged 40 percent this year.

The lira lost strength after Mnuchin’s remarks.

Trump, who has doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, said the steel tariffs had kicked in and the aluminum tariffs would take effect soon.

At the same time, also Erdogan imposed tariffs on some US import products, including rice, vehicles, alcohol, coal and cosmetics.

passenger cars to 120%
alcoholic drinks to 140%
tobacco to 60%

Tariffs were also doubled on goods such as cosmetics, rice and coal.

“The import duties were increased on some products, under the principle of reciprocity, in response to the US administration’s deliberate attacks on our economy,” Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay wrote in a Twitter post.

Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said the doubling of customs tariffs would amount to $533m.

The tariffs increase followed a Turkish boycott on Iphones.

To protest the US pressure allegedly ‘angry’ Turks people smashed IPhones and burned US Dollars.

At the same time, Erdogan seeks new allies and to get closer to Europe.

In an unexpected move, he released the two Greek soldiers in Turkish custody since March 1st. He launched a diplomatic offensive with France and Germany.

Especially with Berlin things will not be easy for Ankara as there are currently nine German citizens in Turkish prisons on charges of “terrorism,” even if in some cases the arrested had only criticized the Turkish regime on social media.

Help for Erdogan came also form the Easy, with Qatar to have pledged $15 billion in investments to help Turkey’s economy.

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One comment

  1. Any country that think they have a “friendship” with America is delusional. Turkey turn to Russia/China and Greece get out of the EU. Stop wasting you time with Washington.