Turkey’s Erdogan Refuses to Back Down After Trump’s Sanction Threats
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will not back down after U.S. President Donald J. Trump threatened to slap large sanctions against Ankara over the ongoing detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, signaling a possible escalation in the dispute over the U.S. citizen.
“We will not take a step back when faced with sanctions. They should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner,” Erdogan said.
The Turkish president’s stinging rebuke comes after Trump’s threat to levy heavy sanctions against Turkey if it does not free Pastor Brunson.
Last week, Brunson was released from jail and has been moved to house arrest, a new development that fell short of meeting the clear-cut U.S. demand and expectation for his complete release.
“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
His remarks revealed a growing exasperation on the U.S. side over Brunson’s case.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison over charges of espionage, abetting an outlawed Kurdish insurgent group and membership to a Muslim organization led by a U.S.-based cleric. Both the pastor’s lawyers and the U.S. authorities regard charges as absurd and baseless.
After Trump’s threatening remarks, Turkey’s leadership has struck a defiant tone and warned that any sanction would indelibly afflict the relationship between two NATO allies.
“You cannot make Turkey take a step back with sanctions,” Erdogan said on Sunday.
“The change of attitude is Trump’s problem, not mine,” the president told a group of reporters during a visit to South Africa.
He even called the U.S. threats a display of “psychological warfare.”
Erdogan’s remarks point to a stunning reversal of a cordial relationship cultivated between two leaders over the past two years.
Most recently, Trump and Erdogan had a remarkably good time during NATO summit in Brussels where the American president berated and mocked his European allies.