WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – On Wednesday, US Vice-President Mike Pence affirmed the Trump administration’s continued insistence on Turkey’s release of the American clergyman, Andrew Brunson.
“Pastor Andrew Brunson is an innocent man held in Turkey & justice demands that he be released,” Pence tweeted.
“Turkey would do well not to test @POTUS Trump’s resolve to see Americans who are wrongfully imprisoned in foreign lands returned home to the United States.”
The White House is firmly in charge of US dealings with Turkey now, and White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders echoed Pence’s tweets.
A Turkish court, again, rejected an appeal for Brunson’s release on Wednesday, and Sanders responded, “We feel that Turkey, and specifically President Erdogan, have treated Pastor Brunson—who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian who’s done nothing wrong — very unfairly, very badly.”
“It’s something that we won’t forget in the administration,” she added.
Sanders also made clear that the US had imposed two different sets of sanctions on Turkey: the sanctions on the Turkish Interior and Justice Ministers, imposed on August 1, were a response to Brunson’s continued detention.
However, Trump’s doubling of tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports on Friday was for national security reasons, Sanders explained. They “would not be removed, with the release of Pastor Brunson,” she said.
Not surprisingly, Spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed similar views on Wednesday at the State Department.
The last talks held between the US and Turkey took place on Monday, Nauert said, when US National Security Advisor John Bolton met with Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Serdar Kilic.
“We have nothing scheduled” now between the US and Turkey, “no meetings or calls or anything of that sort to announce,” she further explained.
Evidently, Ankara is feeling some significant pressure from its confrontation with the US, despite a great deal of bravado coming out of Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told ambassadors in Ankara on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to discuss outstanding issues with the US, as long as there were no threats, Reuters reported.
The US has not responded to Cavusoglu, however, at least not yet, and at least not publicly.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, visited Ankara on Wednesday. After meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he announced that Qatar would invest $15 billion in Turkey. That helped boost Turkey’s embattled currency to 6.0 lira to the dollar, up from its historic low of 7.24 on Monday.
In 2014, Qatar signed a defense agreement with Turkey, and a small Turkish army contingent there was boosted to some 3,000 troops after an open feud erupted in 2017 between Saudi Arabia and its much smaller neighbor.
Asked for the US view of Qatar’s $15 billion investment in Turkey, Nauert declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the two countries.
Turkey and Qatar are both US allies, and between them, they host the two biggest US airbases in the Middle East.
Qatar is receiving little scrutiny, but opinion makers in the West are increasingly questioning whether Turkey should still be considered an ally.
The French philosopher, Bernard-Henry Levy—noting several issues, including Turkey’s support for al Qaeda, and later the Islamic State (IS); its assault on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin; and Erdogan’s growing ties with other authoritarian figures, like Russian president Vladimir Putin—wrote on Monday in The Wall Street Journal, “NATO Should Give Turkey the Boot.”
Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, penned a similarly critical article, also on Monday, in Foreign Policy. Both the Council and the magazine are bastions of the US foreign policy establishment.
In an article entitled, “Trump Is the First President to Get Turkey Right,” Cook cited his own litany of complaints, including that the Turks had “complicated” the fight against IS, by dragging their feet over the US use of Incirlik Air Base, and then “through their incursion into northern Syria, targeting Washington’s Kurdish allies.”
“It should be clear by now that there is no strategic relationship” between the US and Turkey, Cook concluded.
Editing by Nadia Riva