‘We had patience until yesterday’: Erdogan orders US asset freeze amid Pastor Brunson row
Turkey will freeze assets of the Secretaries of Justice (DoJ) and the Interior, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday. The announcement comes after Washington slapped its NATO ally with sanctions targeting Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu over the detention of American Pastor Andrew Brunson.
“The latest step taken by the US in the incident of Pastor Brunson in İzmir was not suitable to a strategic partner,” Erdogan vowed, as cited by Hurriyet daily. The Americans have demonstrated “a serious disrespect” towards Turkey, and that will not go unanswered.
“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," he said. Details of the move are yet unclear, but it is understood as a tit-for-tat response to the American sanctions.
The US administration shows that “they do not know the Turkish nation” if they think it is possible to make Turkey to “take a step back by resorting to threatening language and absurd sanctions,” the President continued.
Pastor Brunson, a US citizen and a Turkish resident for over two decades, has been arrested on terrorism and espionage charges as part of Ankara’s probe into the 2016 failed military coup. He is facing up to 35 years in prison if found guilty of supporting the coup.
According to Trump administration, Gul and Soylu, the two Turkish officials targeted by sanctions “played leading roles in the organizations responsible for the arrest and detention” of Brunson, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement.
Treasury accused the ministers of “implementing Turkey's serious human rights abuses.” All their property falling under US jurisdiction has been frozen, and US citizens are also “generally prohibited from engaging in transactions” with them.
The simmering row between NATO allies US and Turkey escalated on the heels of Brunson affair, but the two sides have already engaged in a dispute over Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defense systems. During the spat, both sides traded threats and incendiary statements.
Erdogan, who has long been critical of the US, previously warned Washington of losing a “strong and sincere ally” should the American administration carry on with a pressure. Washington, in turn, threatened to halt delivery of the F-35 stealth fighters if Ankara finalizes the S-400 deal.