U.S. official warns Turkey more sanctions could be coming

White House says Turkey could face more economic sanctions if it refuses to release jailed American pastor.

Ben Ariel ,

Trump and Erdogan
Trump and Erdogan

A White House official on Tuesday warned Turkey that it could be facing more economic sanctions if it refuses to release a jailed American pastor, Reuters reported.

The tough message for Ankara came a day after White House National Security Adviser John Bolton met privately with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic about the case of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained in Turkey for more than a year on terrorism charges.

Bolton warned the Turkish ambassador that the United States would not give any ground, a senior U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The White House official said “nothing has progressed” thus far on the Brunson case.

“The administration is going to stay extremely firm on this. The president is 100 percent committed to bringing Pastor Brunson home and if we do not see actions in the next few days or a week there could be further actions taken,” the official stressed.

Further actions would likely take the form of economic sanctions, the official said, who added, “The pressure is going to keep up if we’re not seeing results.”

President Donald Trump last week imposed higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, including a 20 percent duty on aluminum and a 50 percent duty on steel.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has vowed to "retaliate" against the U.S. sanctions, calling the American move a "hostile stance".

Brunson is accused of working with Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims orchestrated a failed coup in 2016.

Relations between Turkey and the United States have been soured by Brunson’s detention, as well as diverging interests on Syria. Late last year, a dispute between the countries erupted when the U.S. mission in Turkey reduced visa services in response to a U.S. mission employee being detained in Turkey.

The Turkish mission in Washington subsequently announced a similar move, with both sides saying they needed to reassess each other's commitment to the security of their personnel.

Ultimately, the two countries resolved the dispute and resumed full visa services for one another.