U.S. Warns Turkey Over Detained Pastor as Market Meltdown Drags On
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s top national security aide warned Turkey’s ambassador on Monday that the U.S. has nothing further to negotiate until a detained American pastor is freed, according to two people familiar with the matter, signaling a standoff between the countries will continue as Turkey’s financial meltdown spreads to emerging markets.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton delivered that message to Ambassador Serdar Kilic in Washington, according to the two people, who asked for anonymity to discuss the encounter. The White House said that Kilic had requested the meeting, which centered on the Ankara government’s detention of an American evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson. Turkey’s failure to free Brunson has become the latest conflict between the two nations.
The meeting at the White House marked the first encounter announced between senior officials from the two governments since President Donald Trump on Friday ordered an increase in tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum. The Trump administration has no bargaining proposals on the negotiating table at the moment, the two people said, and no progress was made during the meeting with Kilic.
Tensions between the two NATO allies have intensified amid a dispute over the detention of the Brunson, whose cause has been championed by Vice President Mike Pence. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has signaled defiance, saying the U.S. “cannot tame” his country with threats and warning that Trump was risking the loss of a strategic ally.
A Turkish Embassy spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment and a call to the embassy after normal business hours wasn’t answered.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a two-sentence statement announcing the meeting that Bolton and Kilic talked about Brunson, whom the Turkish government has accused of espionage and terrorism related to a 2016 failed coup attempt, “and the state of the U.S.-Turkey relationship.”
Since at least last week, the U.S. has signaled it had little to discuss with Turkey until Brunson is freed. A U.S. deadline for that to occur by last Wednesday passed without action from Ankara.
“The progress that we want to be made is to have Pastor Brunson return home,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Aug 9. “And I’ll leave it at that.”
Trump administration officials said the U.S. has no bargaining proposals on the negotiating table at the moment, and no progress was made during the meeting with Kilic.
Trump unexpectedly announced plans to double tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum last week, putting further pressure on the country’s economy and markets. Turkey’s lira has weakened into record territory as investors grow anxious about Erdogan’s economic policies.
The lira led losses among global peers after the nation’s first steps to bolster the financial system were seen by some analysts as insufficient to protect markets. As Erdogan lashed out at the U.S., took higher rates off the table and said he wouldn’t accept an international bailout, traders pushed down Turkish assets in a selloff that spilled over to other developing countries.
Trump’s decision to boost tariffs followed sanctions imposed imposed by the U.S. earlier this month on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers. The Turkish currency has lost about a quarter of its value against the dollar since Washington sanctioned the ministers.
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