The Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, says resolving the issue of US sanctions targeting officials in Ankara through dialogue and diplomacy with Washington is Turkey's priority.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law and newly appointed Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak attends a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey on July 9, 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law and newly appointed Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak attends a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey on July 9, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkey’s Treasury and Finance Minister, Berat Albayrak, on Thursday called the US sanctions on two Turkish cabinet ministers "unacceptable."

On Wednesday, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said the US imposed sanctions on Suleyman Soylu, the interior minister, and Abdulhamit Gul, the justice minister. President Donald Trump warned last week that he might impose sanctions against Turkey, a key NATO ally, for its treatment of Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson. 

Brunson, who was recently placed under house arrest, was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist group by both the US and Turkey as well as the EU. He is also charged with helping the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), the group behind a coup attempt in July 2016.

TRT World's diplomatic correspondent Andrew Hopkins has this report.

If found guilty, Brunson faces up to 15 years in prison for committing crimes on behalf of terrorist groups without being a member, and up to 20 years for political or military espionage.

In a statement, Albayrak said Turkey's priority is to resolve the US sanctions issue through "diplomacy and constructive efforts appropriate for two countries and allies with a strong historical background."

"If the US insists on making a mistake, its impact will be limited on Turkey and the Turkish economy," he added.

TRT World 's Mobin Nasir explains the impact of the weaker lira on the Turkish economy and consumers.

Turkey condemns sanctions

Hours after the sanctions were announced, the Turkish foreign ministry called on the US to reverse its decision, according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry. 

"There is no doubt that the decision, which disrespectfully intervenes with our judicial system, stands in contrast to the essence of our relations and will seriously damage the constructive efforts made in order to resolve problems between the two countries," the foreign ministry said. 

"An equivalent response to this aggressive attitude will be given without delay."

Taha Arvas is a financial columnist at the Daily Sabah newspaper. He spoke to TRT World about the US sanctions:

Under the sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department, any property, or interest in property, belonging to Gul or Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu within US jurisdiction would be blocked. Americans would generally be prohibited from doing business with them.

Turkey's Justice Minister, Abdulhamit Gul, responded to the sanctions against him, saying he does not own any property or have money outside Turkey.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, Republican People’s Party, Nationalist Movement Party and the Iyi (Good) Party have all condemned the sanctions. “We say no to US threats with common solidarity,” the parties issued a statement.

Onur Erim, a political analyst and author, speaks to TRT World on the possible reaction by Turkey.

Why is the pastor on trial?

The American pastor was arrested in October 2016. The Izmir 5th Penal Court of Peace on December 9, 2016 ordered Brunson’s continued detention pending trial. 

On July 25, Izmir's high criminal court ordered Brunson to be kept house arrest in light of his health problems.

Izmir Public Prosecutor Berkant Karakaya’s indictment stated that Brunson acted in accordance with the strategies of terror groups but under the pretext of being a man of religion. Brunson knew the aims of such groups and willingly cooperated with them, according to the indictment.

The indictment goes on to state Brunson was in touch with high-ranking FETO members, including fugitives Bekir Baz and his assistant Murat Safa, to determine his strategies. Brunson is also accused of being in contact with Amnesty International Turkey head Taner Kilic, who is awaiting trial in prison for “being a member of an armed terrorist group,” for the same reason.

In the technical investigation, Brunson was placed in close proximity to Baz using GSM signals.

The indictment also discloses a message Brunson sent to a US soldier after the unsuccessful July 2016 coup.

The text message said, “We were expecting an earthquake to shake the Turkish nation. The conditions returning to Jesus were met now. Many Turks relied on the military like in the past, but this time it was too late. Another blow after the coup attempt. I think the situation is going to get worse. We’ll win at the end.”

Matthew Bryza, a former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, gave his take to TRT World on the diplomatic crisis.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies