Date of publication: 4 August, 2018
Turkey will freeze the assets of the US “justice and interior ministers”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday, as a diplomatic rift between Ankara and Washington over a jailed American pastor widens.
“Today I will give our friends instructions to freeze the assets in Turkey of the American justice and interior ministers, if they have any (such assets),” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
He did not specify which members of the administration he was referring to, as the US does have such designations or if any top officials have assets in Turkey.
“The latest step taken by the US in the incident of Pastor [Andrew] Brunson in İzmir was not suitable to a strategic partner. The US has displayed a serious disrespect with this step,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
“We have had shown patience until yesterday evening. Today I am instructing my friends that we will freeze the assets of US secretaries of justice and interior in Turkey.”
Despite the new move, Erdogan appeared to offer an olive branch to President Donald Trump’s administration.
“We don’t want to be a party to lose-lose games. Moving political and judicial disputes into an economic dimension will be harmful for both sides,” he added.
There were hopes that the crisis over the jailed pastor could be resolved, but the US sanctions this week greatly escalated tensions.
Brunson, a protestant cleric living in Izmir, was placed under house arrest last week.
He had already spent nearly two years in jail on charges of espionage and supporting terror groups when he was arrested following an attempted military coup in Turkey.
The pastor has been accused of links to US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the attempted coup, along with ties to the banned Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Brunson could face 35 years in jail if found guilty of the charges.
Trump’s administration has made the welfare of American Christian preachers across the world a priority of its foreign policy. ( The New Arab )