A White House official said that additional sanctions could be imposed on Turkey if it fails to release American evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the remarks to President Donald Trump at a cabinet meeting in the White House on Aug. 16.
“We’ve [already] put sanctions on several of their cabinet members. Working with you [President Trump], we have more that we’re planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” Mnuchin said, in reference to Brunson.
The Trump administration applied sanctions on Aug. 1 on two top Turkish officials for their roles in the detention of Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina accused by Turkey of orchestrating a failed military coup and for having links to terrorist organizations. None of the accusations have been substantiated.
Trump called the detention of Brunson “not fair” and “not right” at the Aug. 16 cabinet meeting.
“Turkey, they have not proven to be a good friend,” the president said. “They have a great Christian pastor there, he’s a very innocent man. I just think it’s a terrible thing that they’re holding him.”
The remarks come after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a decree on Aug. 15 that raised tariffs on American cars to 120 percent, on alcoholic drinks to 140 percent, and on leaf tobacco to 60 percent. It also doubled tariffs on American cosmetics, rice, and coal, among other imports.
A National Security Council spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times the move was “regrettable and a step in the wrong direction.”
“President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum is about protecting American national security,” the spokesperson said. “But one could hardly say the same about Turkey’s announced tariffs on American cars, alcohol, and tobacco. This is regrettable and a step in the wrong direction.”
The two NATO allies are at an impasse regarding the detention of the American pastor, differing views on Syria, and Turkey’s purchase of Russian military equipment. The growing tensions have also sent the Turkish currency tumbling nearly 40 percent against the dollar this year.