Erdogan: Turkey to Impose Sanctions on US Officials In Retaliation
The Turkish president said on Wednesday that Turkey would hit two U.S. officials with sanctions in retaliation to the U.S. sanctions against the Turkish ministers in an escalating dispute over the detainment of a pastor.
In his first comment on the U.S. sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the U.S. administration but adopted a measured response rather than a fiery, bellicose rhetoric.
He displayed his intention to contain any further fallout and escalation of the dispute by underscoring that none of the sides had an interest in a “lose-lose” situation.
“Today I will give our friends instructions to freeze the assets in Turkey of the American justice and interior ministers, if they have any (such assets),” President Erdogan said at a congress of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Saturday.
“We don’t want to be a party to lose-lose games. Moving political and judicial disputes into an economic dimension will be harmful to both sides,” he said, expressing the need for defusion of the tension.
While Erdogan unleashed his fire on the U.S. administration, he assiduously spared President Donald J. Trump from criticism.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has fallen into a big trap. Mr. Trump must foil this plot,” the president said.
“Those who think that they would make Turkey back down, they have never known this country and this nation. Turkey cannot be made a subject of the U.S. domestic politics. Repeating the mistakes of Europe would earn the U.S. nothing,” Erdogan added.
The U.S. and Turkey embroiled in a diplomatic tug of war as things came to a boiling point two weeks ago when President Trump first threatened to impose sanctions after Pastor Brunson was placed under house arrest. The U.S. pastor faces up to 35 years in prison over charges of espionage and terrorism in what the U.S. authorities believe a politically-tinged trial.
According to the move that came at the direction of Trump, the Treasury Department has blocked all financial assets and properties of Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu within the U.S. jurisdiction. It also banned the U.S. citizens from any transactions with the two ministers.
The U.S. sanctions represented a new low moment in recent decades in the tumultuous relationship that strained over a number of unresolved conflicts.
The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo met in Singapore on Friday on the sidelines of ASEAN meeting. They displayed their intention to cool down the tension and resolve the matter before things further escalate.
Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of President Erdogan, expressed confidence in the unshakable bond between two allies. He said he did not expect a break in relations. “The Turkish-American ties would never break.”