Published: Thu, August 02, 2018
Finance | By Gustavo Carr

United States hits Turkish ministers with sanctions over pastor Andrew Brunson

United States hits Turkish ministers with sanctions over pastor Andrew Brunson

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the United States. has grown exhausted of waiting for Turkish action on the matter.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the sanctions would target Turkey's justice and interior ministers, whose agencies she said were responsible for the pastor's arrest and detention.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he would not be swayed by sanctions.

USA pastor Andrew Brunson reacts as he arrives at his home after being released from the prison in Izmir, Turkey July 25, 2018.

Brunson worked in Turkey for 23 years as a pastor before he was detained more than a year ago for an alleged connection to a failed coup against Erdoğan in 2016.

"As a result, any property or interest in property of both ministers within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them", she said.

The U.S. sanctions were imposed under the auspices of the Magnitsky Act, originally a tool to punish Russian officials for serious human rights abuses but which is now being applied to human rights abusers worldwide. "It's time - once and for all - for the Trump-Pence Administration to take away Erdogan's veto of honest American remembrance of Turkey's World War I-era genocide and exile of Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, and other Christian nations".

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He said Erdogan overestimated the significance of his personal relationship with Trump, given growing impatience with Turkey in Congress, the State Department, and Pentagon. Pence has said that "there is no credible evidence against" Brunson.

Mr Brunson has denied charges of espionage, but faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.

Pompeo said Trump had decided that sanctions were "the appropriate action".

Despite these long-standing and significant ties - not to mention the huge potential to backfire - the Trump Administration had to deliver a message to Erdogan and the Turkish government that imprisoning Americans is not acceptable, according to Eric Edelman, former ambassador to Turkey.

A Turkish justice ministry spokesman did not immediately comment on the sanctions.

"There is no doubt that this will greatly damage constructive efforts working to solve the issues between the two countries", the foreign ministry said in a statement. Relations between the United States and Turkey have plummeted over Brunson, who was in custody for 21 months in a Turkish prison until he was transferred to house arrest last week.

Indeed, the Turkish currency slid to a record low after the White House announced the sanctions.

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