U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the United States is ready to impose more sanctions on Turkey if detained American pastor Andrew Brunson is not released from house arrest.
Mnuchin made the statement Thursday during a Cabinet meeting with the president attended by journalists. “We have put sanctions on several of their Cabinet members,” Mnuchin said. “We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s ministers of Justice and Interior in response to Brunson’s detention. The pastor has lived in Turkey for 20 years and heads an evangelical congregation of about two dozen people in the port city of Izmir.
Turkey accuses Brunson of espionage and is holding him under house arrest pending his trial.
On Wednesday, Turkey announced tariff hikes on a range of U.S. goods, including imports of vehicles, alcohol, coal, rice and cosmetics.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Twitter the increases were being done “within the framework of the principle of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious economic attacks by the United States.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the United States of waging a targeted economic war on his country, and on Tuesday he proposed a boycott of U.S. electronic goods.
Asked how U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would react to any such Turkish boycott, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied Tuesday, “I certainly don’t have a policy announcement on that at this point.”
The charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Brunson on Tuesday and called for his case, and those of others detained in Turkey, to be resolved “without delay” and in a “fair and transparent manner.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton met at the White House on Monday with Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic, but the discussion reportedly did not result in any substantive progress.
Trump has called Brunson’s detention a “total disgrace.”
Last Friday, the U.S. doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum exports in order to increase pressure on Erdogan.
The escalating dispute between the two countries has exacerbated Turkey’s economic crisis, pushing the lira to record lows. The Turkish currency has lost about 40 percent of its value this year against the U.S. dollar.
Erdogan has called on Turks to exchange their dollars for lira in order to shore up the domestic currency.