Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu responded swiftly on Thursday to the threat of sanctions from President Donald Trump unless pastor Andrew Brunson is released. “We will never tolerate threats from anybody,” Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
Noone dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception.
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) July 26, 2018
Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that Turkey could face “significant sanctions” unless “this innocent man of faith is free,” as Pence put it.
Daily Sabah Washington correspondent Ragip Soylu wrote on Thursday afternoon that President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear to have held a “rough” telephone conversation on Thursday morning. “I know caving in after public threats isn’t among Erdogan’s personality traits,” he observed.
Soylu also relayed a statement from Erdogan’s office complaining that Trump did not agree to take any action against imam Fethullah Gulen, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan from his home in Pennsylvania, but instead demanded Brunson’s unconditional release:
The U.S. administration’s statements and its use of threatening language against Turkey, a NATO ally, is unacceptable.
The U.S. administration, which has taken no steps whatsoever against the terrorist group FETO until today, must understand that it cannot reach desired results by threatening Turkey over an issue which falls within the jurisdiction of our country’s independent judiciary.
“FETO” is the Turkish government’s name for Gulen’s followers, the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization.”
Soylu added one final observation: Erdogan was in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he was informed of President Trump’s sanctions threat. “Our solidarity with Russia makes some envious,” Erdogan responded.
Brunson was transferred to house arrest on Wednesday, ostensibly for health reasons. President Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow indicated earlier in the week that house arrest could be a prelude to Brunson’s release. If such an arrangement was ever in the cards, the sudden war of words between the Trump and Erdogan administrations would suggest something went badly wrong at the last minute.