So much for Trump’s strong-arm tactics in changing the mind of Turkey’s “executive president.”
In retaliation to Washington’s sanctions against Ankara announced last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday that Turkey will freeze the assets of the US Justice and Interior Ministers in Turkey, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“The latest step taken by the U.S. in the incident of Pastor Brunson in İzmir was not suitable to a strategic partner. It is a disrespectful step against Turkey.” Erdoğan said in a speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s congress for its women’s organization in Ankara on Aug. 4.
“The decision to freeze assets of Turkish justice, interior ministers in the US is illogical. We were patient until last night but I am now instructing my friends today. We will freeze assets, if there are any, of the U.S. justice and interior secretaries in Turkey,” Erdogan said adding that “those who think that they can make Turkey take a step back by resorting to threatening language and absurd sanctions proves that they do not know the Turkish nation.”
The diplomatic fallout between the two nations, follows the announcement of US sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers over serious human rights violations against imprisoned Pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and FETÖ, which Ankara blames for the failed coup in 2016.
He was transferred to house arrest on July 25, which triggered strong statements from U.S. officials including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and eventually resulted in formal sanctions on Wednesday.
Under the sanctions, any property, or interest in property, belonging to Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu within U.S. jurisdiction would be blocked. Americans would generally be prohibited from doing business with them.
Turkey warned that it would retaliate the sanctions in the same way.
Regarding the arrest of pastor Brunson Erdogan said that they did what the state of law requires and it is not up to anyone to make Turkey’s Halkbank pay a price.
Erdogan said: “Do not enter a swap deal with us by arresting the deputy general manager of Halkbank, who went to the U.S. and came back six times.” Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former deputy CEO of Turkish state lender Halkbank, has been sentenced to 32 months in prison in the U.S. for violating the sanctions on Iran.
“Turkey cannot be an item of U.S. domestic politics like it became in Europe. Repeating the faults that Europe did, will not earn America anything,” Erdogan said. He said they could solve problems with the U.S. by prioritizing their alliance based on mutual interests and strategic partnership.
Despite the announcement of sanctions, Erdogan called for a return to the two country’s partnership, saying, “We think there is no problem we cannot solve with the American administration.” He said he hoped the U.S. would drop it’s “hot-tempered attitude and return to its good senses” as diplomats were working to put behind disputes: “the channels of diplomacy are working very intensely. I think that we will leave behind a major chunk of differences between us soon,” adding that they should sort out the disputes rationally.
Those disputes include the arrests of U.S. citizens as well as local consular staff, U.S. senators pushing to block the delivery of American F-35 jets following Turkey’s pledge to buy the Russian S-400 missile system, and Turkey’s demand that Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric blamed for a failed coup attempt be extradited to stand trial.
But really what the US is most concerned about is Turkey’s ongoing pivot toward Moscow.
Erdogan warned that if these political and judicial disputes impact the economy, they will be harmful for both countries. He is probably right, although judging by the collapse in the Turkish lira which has lost nearly half of its value in the past year alone…
… and last week’s inflationary print, which just hit the highest level since 2003…
… any economic “harm” will come to Turkey much faster.
Read on ZH