ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the US in comments published Sunday that sanctions would not force Ankara to “step back” after Donald Trump threatened to punish Turkey if a US pastor was not freed.
“You cannot make Turkey take a step back with sanctions,” Erdogan said in his first comments since relations soured after Trump threatened the measures on Thursday if Pastor Andrew Brunson was not released.
“The US should not forget that it could lose a strong and sincere partner like Turkey if it does not change its attitude,” he was quoted as saying by Hurriyet daily.
“The change of attitude is Trump’s problem, not mine,” he told journalists during a visit to South Africa, calling the US threats “psychological warfare”.
Relations between the NATO allies have worsened over the jailing of Brunson, who ran a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir.
He was held in a Turkish jail for almost two years on terror charges but was placed under house arrest on Wednesday.
Trump on Thursday hit back at the move, calling for his immediate release and warning that the US would impose “large sanctions on Turkey for their longtime detainment” of Brunson.
Ties had already been strained over multiple issues including Washington’s support of a Syrian Kurdish militia which Turkey views as a terrorist group and the failure to extradite the Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan in September suggested Turkey could free Brunson if the US handed over Gulen — an offer brushed off by Washington.