U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that Washington has more sanctions ready if Turkey refuses to release terror-linked pastor Andrew Brunson, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The report comes after U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday during a Cabinet meeting at the White House that Turkey "hasn't turned out to be a great friend."
After complaining that Turkey hasn't yet released Brunson, Trump asked Mnuchin for an update on the sanctions on Ankara.
"How are you doing with sanctions on Turkey? As you know, we doubled up the tariffs on steel and aluminum. Aluminum will happen very shortly. How are you doing with sanctions?" Trump asked, apparently linking tariffs — which the White House claims are for national security — and sanctions — which have been overtly used in relation to Brunson.
"We put sanctions on several of the Cabinet members," Mnuchin reportedly answered, indicating that the implementation of sanctions on Turkish ministers was not personally ordered by the U.S. president.
"Working with you, we have more that we're planning to do if they don't release him quickly," he told Trump.
The report gives a contradictory account from what the White House has said on the issue of sanctions and tariffs. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. tariffs on Turkey were unrelated to the sanctions over the Brunson's case. She said the tariffs were "out of national security interests," chiding Turkey for returning measures "out of retaliation."
Trump and Mnuchin's conversation suggests otherwise, however, as the president's alternation between the two measures makes it clear that tariffs are another tool being used to try to manipulate Ankara into caving to Washington's wishes on the Brunson case.
Turkey and the U.S. have been locked in a heated crisis emanating from unjust sanctions and the actions of Trump, as Washington levied sanctions on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül for not releasing American pastor Brunson, who faces terrorism charges in Turkey.
Turkey on Wednesday doubled tariffs on several U.S. goods, including alcohol and tobacco products and cars, after Trump increased U.S. tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
U.S. stocks suffered their worst day in seven weeks after the move, and the lira gained 7 percent against the dollar.
Serving at the Diriliş (Resurrection) Protestant Church in the western province of Izmir, Brunson was arrested in October 2016 and moved to house arrest on July 25 due to health problems. He is scheduled to appear before a court in October for his third hearing after the court rejected an appeal for his release in a July 18 hearing.
Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of helping the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is responsible for the failed 2016 coup, as well as for supporting the PKK.
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