The conflict between the United States and Turkey over the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson is heating up. As the Trump administration levies more sanctions and Ankara’s currency becomes more devalued, they are attempting to broker negotiations with Washington. So far, it isn’t looking favorable for Turkey.
The Turkish government recently made an offer to the Trump administration in hopes of getting something in return for releasing the pastor, who was imprisoned in 2016 on charges of espionage. So far, the American president isn’t willing to budge.
Trump Refuses Turkey’s Offer
The Turkish government declared that they would release Pastor Brunson if the United States drops its investigation into Halkbank, a state-owned bank. The United States is preparing to impose fines on the bank for violating sanctions against Iran.
President Trump turned down the offer, stating that he would not consider any leniency for the bank until Brunson is freed. “A real NATO ally wouldn’t have arrested Brunson in the first place,” a White House official told The Wall Street Journal.
The president has previously stated that Brunson was being held on a “phony charge” and should have been set free “a long time ago.” The White House recently took additional actions against Ankara, doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum to apply more pressure:
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
Trump’s actions have already had an impact on Turkey, whose economy is in a deep decline. Later in the week, he reiterated his belief that the United States should not have to pay for the release of Brunson:
“Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!”
What Will Happen to Brunson
It is not yet clear how Turkey will respond to Trump’s demands. It is possible that they are still looking for a way to get something out of the U.S. while saving face. However, the president has made his stance on the issue well known.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also chimed in on the issue. “The Turks were on notice that the clock had run out and it was time for Pastor Brunson to be returned and I hope they’ll see this for what it is: a demonstration that we’re very serious,” he said.
The United States has the obvious advantage in this conflict, and it is unlikely that Turkey has anything to gain by continuing to test President Trump’s resolve. The White House knows that the sanctions and tariffs are putting a heavy burden on the Turkish economy. it is possible that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might stubbornly refuse to give in, but it appears more likely that he will see the wisdom of making the right move. Either way, it is apparent that relations between the United States and Turkey continue to worsen.