U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to slap “large sanctions” on Turkey unless it freed an American pastor, prompting an angry response from Ankara and further escalating tensions between the two NATO allies.
A spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Washington’s threats unacceptable and damaging to the U.S.-Turkey alliance.
“The United States must reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said in a written statement.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the threat of sanctions, Turkish and State Department officials said, without elaborating.
The Trump administration escalated the pressure campaign to free Andrew Brunson a day after a court ordered that he be moved to house arrest after 21 months in detention. He is on trial for terrorism charges.
“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
“He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”