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Sunday 21 October 2018

Turkey 'will retaliate' over US sanctions as crisis grows

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Ataturk yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Ataturk yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Dean Gray in Washington

Turkey was yesterday drawing up retaliatory measures after Washington slapped sanctions on two Turkish ministers in one of the biggest crises between the two Nato allies in recent years.

Tensions have soared over Turkey's detention on terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was first held in October 2016 and was moved to house arrest last week.

The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had "played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson", who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir.

The US Treasury implemented the sanctions under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail, and which allows the US to sanction foreign officials implicated in rights abuses.

The Turkish foreign ministry warned that the move "will greatly damage constructive efforts" to solve outstanding issues and told Washington it would retaliate.

"Without delay, there will be a response to this aggressive attitude that will not serve any purpose," it said.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is set to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the next few days, also warned that the move "will not go without response".

Hours before the sanctions were announced, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Washington of showing an "evangelist, Zionist mentality".

The standoff appears to be one of the most serious crises between Turkey and the United States in modern history, along with the rows over the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

The row over Mr Brunson escalated last week when US Vice President Mike Pence, like the pastor an evangelical Christian, said Turkey would face "significant sanctions" if this "innocent man of faith" was not freed.

His language was immediately echoed by President Donald Trump, who had enjoyed a relatively warm relationship with Mr Erdogan and was even reported to have "fist-bumped" the Turkish president at a Nato summit last month.

Irish Independent

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