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Erdoğan: Turkey to retaliate for sanctions by freezing assets of 2 US Cabinet secretaries

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Turkey will freeze the assets of two United States Cabinet secretaries in retaliation for Washington’s sanctions on Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday.

“The latest step taken by the US in the case of Pastor Brunson in İzmir was not suitable for a strategic partner. The US has displayed serious disrespect with this step,” Erdoğan said in a speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) congress for its women’s organization in Ankara on Sunday.

“We had had shown patience until yesterday evening. Today I am instructing my colleagues that we will freeze the assets of the US secretaries of justice and interior in Turkey,” he added. “Those who think they can make Turkey take a step back by resorting to threatening language and absurd sanctions show that they do not know the Turkish nation.”

The US had announced sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers for their responsibility in the violation of imprisoned American pastor Andrew Brunson’s human rights.

Under the current US sanctions, any property, or interest in property, belonging to Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu within US jurisdiction will be blocked. Americans will be generally prohibited from doing business with them. Turkey had said it would retaliate for the sanctions in the same way.

Erdoğan also said, “Don’t try to bargain with us by arresting the deputy general manager of Halkbank, who went to the US and came back six times [before he was arrested by US authorities].”

Mehmet Hakan Atilla, former deputy CEO of Turkish state lender Halkbank, has been sentenced to 32 months in prison in the US for violating sanctions on Iran.

“Turkey cannot become a pawn in domestic US politics like it was in Europe. Repeating the mistakes that Europe made will not earn America anything,” Erdoğan claimed. He said they could solve problems with the US by prioritizing their alliance based on mutual interests and strategic partnership.

“The channels of diplomacy are working very intensely. I think we will soon leave behind a major part of the differences between us,” he said, adding that they should sort out the issue rationally. Erdoğan urged that if these political and judicial disputes extend to the economic dimension, they would be harmful for both countries.

(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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