Turkey has condemned a decision by the US to impose sanctions on two of its senior ministers in response to the detention of an American pastor who is being tried by Ankara on espionage and terror-related charges.
The Turkish foreign ministry called on the US to reverse its “wrong decision” on Thursday after Washington announced sanctions on Abdulhamit Gul, the minister of justice, and Suleyman Soylu, the minister of interior.
The White House blocked assets and properties belonging to Gul and Soylu after accusing them of playing leading roles in the arrest and detention of Andrew Brunson.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a written statement on Thursday: “The decision, which disrespectfully intervenes in our judicial system, will seriously damage the constructive efforts made in order to resolve problems between the two countries.”
It added that the US’ “aggressive attitude serves no purpose,” and vowed that it would respond in equal measure.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter: “US attempts to impose sanctions on our two ministers will not go unanswered.”
Gul was later quoted by the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah as saying he didn’t own any property or money outside Turkey, therefore attempts by the US Treasury to “block” assets under US jurisdiction would have no effect on him.
Soylu also shrugged off Washington’s move, saying the only business he had with the US was the extradition of Gulen.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, has denied any role in the 2016 coup attempt.
Government cannot intervene
Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, is at the centre of one of the most bitter diplomatic spats between the NATO allies in years that risks escalating further.
The Christian right, an important component of US President Donald Trump‘s voting base, has been pressuring the administration on the Brunson case.
However, the Turkish government has repeatedly said that the case is being handled by the courts and it cannot intervene.
Speaking on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government wouldn’t back down to the US’ “threatening language”.
“It is not possible for us to accept that America gets up, especially with an evangelist, Zionist mentality, and uses this kind of threat-filled language,” Erdogan said.