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US Vice President Pence reiterates sanction threat to Turkey

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US Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday reiterated a threat to Ankara that Washington will impose sanctions on Turkey if American Pastor Andrew Brunson is not freed.

“As I said earlier this week – and @POTUS [US President Donald Trump] has made clear — transferring Pastor Andrew Brunson to home arrest, it’s just not good enough.  And the United States of America is prepared to bring sanctions against Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” Pence tweeted on Sunday.

The İzmir 2nd High Criminal Court on Wednesday ruled to move Brunson from pretrial detention, in which he has been held since October 2016, to house arrest in İzmir but barred him from leaving the premises or the country.

The same court last week had ruled to keep Brunson, who faces 35 years, in jail, setting the next hearing for Oct. 12.

“The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” President Trump tweeted on Thursday morning, following up on a tweet by Pence that said, “If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free.”

Pence’s new tweet came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday rebuffed remarks by the US administration, saying Turkey would not retreat in the face of pressure and comparing the situation to US-imposed sanctions on Iran.

“We have never made Pastor Brunson a subject of bargaining. You cannot force Turkey to retreat with sanctions,” Erdoğan told reporters at a stop in Zambia during an African tour, recalling six US senators’ bipartisan legislation to restrict loans to Turkey from international financial institutions “until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of US citizens.”

Calling Washington’s threat of sanctions “psychological warfare,” Erdoğan said: “They have to know: We are not dependent on America. We will continue with our people in solidarity as we have done up until now. The US should not forget that it will lose a strong and sincere partner if they do not change their attitude.”

Erdoğan brought to mind the US sanctions targeting Iran. “What happened? Did Iran fail?” he asked.

Regarding a US Congress defense bill at that would block the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless Ankara releases jailed US citizens and employees and cancels its purchase of an S-400 air defense system from Russia, President Erdoğan said Turkey would resort to international arbitration if the sale of F-35 jets to Ankara is blocked.

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