Erdogan Accuses U.S. Pastor of ‘Dark Ties’ to Terror Groups

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the U.S. of using a jailed American pastor with “dark ties to terror groups” as a pretext to impose sanctions on his country, while leaving the door open for a reconciliation with the Trump administration.

Erdogan addressed Turkey’s parliament on Monday, less than two weeks before Andrew Brunson, a Christian evangelical detained in Turkey on charges of espionage and terrorism related to the failed 2016 coup, is due in court on Oct. 12. The U.S. has signaled it would like him released by that date.

Erdogan Accuses U.S. Pastor of ‘Dark Ties’ to Terror Groups

“We are determined to fight this twisted attitude that has attempted to impose sanctions on our country by using a pastor who has dark ties to terror groups as the pretext,” Erdogan said.

The U.S. slapped sanctions on Turkish government ministers over Brunson’s captivity and Turkey has retaliated with tariffs. The spat deepened troubles for the already struggling Turkish economy, and helped drive a major slump in the value of the lira this year.

Trump and Erdogan briefly met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week and shook hands. But they did not engage on key tensions dividing the two NATO allies.

Iran Case

Turkey’s leader also called a U.S. case implicating state lender Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS in an Iran-related sanctions violation as an “unprecedented unlawfulness.”

The Brunson case is just the latest irritant to Turkish-U.S. ties. Relations were already strained by U.S. cooperation with a Syria Kurdish force viewed by Turkey as a terrorist affiliate of separatists it has battled at home for decades, as well as Washington’s refusal to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of masterminding the attempted putsch.

Erdogan, however, said he wanted to see an improvement in the relationship.

“I believe the U.S. administration will correct its wrong view toward our country sooner or later,” he said. “We hope to solve the matters between us as soon as possible and develop ties with the U.S. in politics and the economy once again, in line with the spirit of being strategic partners.”

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