President Donald Trump “has a great deal of frustration,” with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a briefing Tuesday, calling again on the Turkish “executive president” to release pastor Brunson and other U.S. citizens as the diplomatic standoff between the two nations continued to weigh on global markets.
“We’re going to continue to call on Turkey to do the right thing and release those individuals,” including pastor Andrew Brunson, Sanders said.
The statement came shortly after a White House official said that the United States warned more economic pressures may be in store for Turkey if it refuses to release the jailed American pastor. The message emerged a day after White House national security adviser John Bolton met privately with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic about the case of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson. Bolton warned him that the United States would not give any ground, a senior U.S. official said.
The White House official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said “nothing has progressed” thus far on the Brunson case.
“The administration is going to stay extremely firm on this. The president is 100 percent committed to bringing Pastor Brunson home and if we do not see actions in the next few days or a week there could be further actions taken,” the official said.
Further actions would likely take the form of economic sanctions, the official said, who added: The pressure is going to keep up if we’re not seeing results.
Trump doubled tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum last week, contributing to a precipitous fall in the lira which has lost a quarter of its value this month. The United States is also considering a fine against Turkeys state-owned Halkbank for allegedly helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. Earlier this month, the United States imposed sanctions on two top officials in President Recep Tayyip Erdogans cabinet in an attempt to get Turkey to turn over Brunson.
In response, on Tuesday Erdogan vowed to boycott American electronics, including iPhones, in a defiance of Trump’s demands. And while even a widespread Turkish boycott would do little to dent U.S. economic interests, it shows Erdogan is refusing to give in to market turmoil that’s pushed borrowing costs to record highs and threatens to descend the nation into a financial crisis.
Surprisingly, despite the now daily tit-for-tat escalation between Ankara and Washington as diplomatic tensions rage, the Turkish Lira rallied for the first time in a week as Turks cashed in dollar savings to take advantage of the huge slump in the local currency. As the FT reported, speculation has grown that Turkish policy makers will heed calls from corporate and banking executives to raise interest rates to stem the rout.