The crisis between Turkey and the U.S. over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson continues. Brunson was detained after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and jailed on Dec. 9, 2016. On July 25, 2018, Brunson was released and put under house arrest. But the U.S. issued harsh statements and sanction threats after this development, which has been confusing.
U.S. President Donald Trump, for instance, said that they will impose serious sanctions on Turkey while Vice President Mike Pence attempted to give orders to the Turkish judiciary regarding the release of Brunson.
The Turkish government gave a fitting reply to these impertinent remarks that disregard an independent judiciary and sovereignty rights. But no one has quite understood the underlying motivations of the U.S. authorities while threatening their Turkish interlocutors in front of the press regarding a subject that has undergone tangible developments.
Former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz described this contradiction as follows: "It seems like the Americans responded in such a way to prevent the pastor's release since it is not possible to impose their wishes even on a small state in Africa, let alone a strong country like Turkey in today's world. They put someone who normally might have been acquitted on the first trial in a more difficult position."
According to the veteran politician, the situation is caused by the dual administration and bad diplomacy of the U.S. But we need to look for other possible causes, as the U.S. reacted in the face of a positive development, whereas it did not issue such a response while Brunson was in prison.
Last week President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went to South Africa to attend the BRICS summit. He also met the leaders of Russia and China, on a continent where the U.S. aspires to expand its field of influence. They discussed and agreed on some concrete steps towards cooperation. Apparently, Turkey's meeting with the U.S.'s archrivals in Africa triggered a strong reaction from the country.The U.S. administration evidently wants to use the Brunson issue as leverage in its bargains on other subjects and it is doing so by hindering the resolution of the issue. But regardless of their aims and underlying messages, the U.S. officials need to understand that they must conform to two minimum requirements while establishing relations with Turkey. First, you cannot give orders to the Turkish administration and judiciary. Second, Ankara will not accept any of your judicial demands on the basis of reciprocity principle unless you extradite Fetullah Gülen, the mastermind of the July 15 coup attempt.