Trump Says He’s ‘Very Disappointed’ in Erdogan Over Pastor
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he felt personally let down by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his refusal to release an American evangelical pastor after the U.S. had helped a Turkish citizen detained in Israel.
“I’m disappointed in him,” Trump said Thursday in an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg News, after initially declining to comment because the episode was “too dear to my heart.”
“I got somebody back for him,” Trump said. “I’m very disappointed in him, but we’ll see how it all works out.”
Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have escalated in recent months over the detention of Andrew Brunson, a Christian evangelical pastor facing terrorism-related charges tied to the failed 2016 coup. The U.S. slapped sanctions on Turkish government ministers earlier this month, and Turkey has retaliated with tariffs.
The spat has deepened troubles for the already struggling Turkish economy, and helped drive a more than 40 percent decline in the lira this year.
Turkey has warned the U.S. it may seek new alliances, and Russia is taking advantage of the opening. At the same time, Turkey says its relationship with Russia isn’t an alternative to relations with the U.S. and European Union. While Turkey has been bound to the U.S. by NATO, Trump has expressed frustration in recent months with the alliance and questioned its relevance.
Brunson’s detention comes on top of other irritants in the two countries’ relations, including Turkey’s long-running interest in purchasing Russia’s S-400 air defense system, jailing of US consulate employees and support for Islamists.
Erdogan meanwhile has fumed at the U.S.’s backing for Kurdish rebels in Syria and refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher living in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.