TEN­SIONS BE­TWEEN US AND TURKEY ARE UN­LIKELY TO GO AWAY

The National - News - - NEWS - AN­DREW WILKS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was last night due to wel­come home the Amer­i­can pas­tor whose in­car­cer­a­tion caused one of the low­est points in US-Turkey re­la­tions, but the im­pact of his re­lease on the Nato al­lies’ trou­bled re­la­tion­ship re­mained to be seen.

An­drew Brun­son, 50, an evan­gel­i­cal preacher from North Carolina, was freed on Fri­day de­spite be­ing sen­tenced to more than three years on ter­ror­ism charges. Judges ruled that the two years he had al­ready spent in jail or un­der house ar­rest was enough pun­ish­ment.

The de­ci­sion re­moved one of the key dis­putes be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton in re­cent years, but it re­mains un­clear whether it will be enough to re­pair ties or re­store the ail­ing Turk­ish econ­omy, which was put un­der greater pres­sure by the af­fair.

Keep­ing Mr Brun­son in de­ten­tion raised the risk of fur­ther US re­tal­i­a­tion and more dam­age to the Turk­ish econ­omy, said Inan Demir, a se­nior econ­o­mist at No­mura In­ter­na­tional.

“If Brun­son is not re­leased, the mar­kets will start to price in fur­ther sanc­tions by the US,” Mr Demir told The

Na­tional be­fore the court de­liv­ered its ver­dict. “And, as long as we don’t have much clar­ity on the US sanc­tions, the mar­kets’ in­cli­na­tion will be to price in the more ad­verse sce­nario.”

Se­lim Sazak, an ad­junct fel­low at New York’s Cen­tury Foun­da­tion and an in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions doc­toral can­di­date at Brown Univer­sity, said: “Turkey’s prob­lems are its own, they’re not of the US’s mak­ing.

“The US is not re­spon­si­ble for ap­point­ing the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law to head the fi­nance min­istry or for over­see­ing a run­away credit boom or for cor­rup­tion. The Turk­ish econ­omy faces mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure.”

Al­though the lira, which lost about 40 per cent of its value against the dol­lar this year, re­cov­ered by 3 per cent in the run up to the hear­ing, there was lit­tle change on Fri­day.

“We’re talk­ing about an ex­tra cherry on the cake,” Mr Sazak said. “But the prob­lem’s not the cher­ries. It’s the cake it­self that is fall­ing apart.”

Ar­rested in Oc­to­ber 2016, Mr Brun­son’s case was high­lighted by Mr Trump this sum­mer.

In Au­gust, Wash­ing­ton im­posed sanc­tions on two Turk­ish cabi­net min­is­ters and later dou­bled tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium, send­ing the lira to a new low against the dol­lar.

The case also be­came a light­ning rod for a host of dis­putes be­tween the US and Turkey.

These in­clude the US re­fusal to ex­tra­dite cleric Fethul­lah Gulen, who Ankara ac­cuses of mas­ter­mind­ing a July 2016 coup at­tempt, and Amer­i­can sup­port for Syr­ian-Kur­dish fight­ers linked to the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party, which has waged a four-decade fight against Turkey.

Then there was the con­vic­tion and im­pris­on­ment of a Turk­ish bank ex­ec­u­tive for break­ing US sanc­tions on Iran and Turkey’s deal with Rus­sia to buy air de­fence mis­siles.

Turkey has jailed an un­known num­ber of other US cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing Turk­ish-Amer­i­can Nasa sci­en­tist Serkan Golge and lo­cal con­sulate staff.

The US has in­di­cated it will also push for their re­lease.

Wel­com­ing Mr Brun­son’s re­lease, White House Press Sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said the US was still “deeply con­cerned about the con­tin­ued de­ten­tion of other United States cit­i­zens in Turkey”.

Re­fus­ing to clar­ify whether the sanc­tions on Turk­ish min­is­ters would be lifted, she said: “The US and Turkey have a num­ber of mu­tual con­cerns re­gard­ing re­gional se­cu­rity and we look for­ward to work­ing to­gether on these is­sues.”

The im­pris­on­ment of Amer­i­cans has en­dan­gered Turkey’s ac­qui­si­tion of F-35 fighter jets. US se­na­tors specif­i­cally cited “wrong­fully or un­law­fully” held US cit­i­zens when propos­ing a bill to block the trans­fer of F-35s to Turkey this year.

In ad­di­tion, the two coun­tries are now em­broiled in the case of miss­ing Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, a US res­i­dent who dis­ap­peared af­ter vis­it­ing the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul nearly two weeks ago.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to see what dif­fer­ence the Brun­son case alone will make to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Turkey and the US,” said a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at an Is­tan­bul univer­sity.

Be­fore Mr Brun­son’s ar­rival at the White House, Mr Trump tweeted his thanks to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan “for his help”, al­though the Turk­ish leader has re­peat­edly said that the case was a mat­ter for the ju­di­ciary and out of his hands.

Mr Trump de­nied re­ports that the pas­tor’s free­dom was due to an ar­range­ment be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ankara.

And de­spite Mr Trump say­ing that the re­sult would be “good, per­haps great” ties with Turkey, Mr Sazak said the fraught US-Turkey re­la­tion­ship re­mained un­re­solved.

“Un­less you solve the Kur­dish prob­lem and the Gulen prob­lem, there will be no so­lu­tion,” he said.

Reuters

US pas­tor An­drew Brun­son and his wife Nor­rine ar­rive at the air­port in Izmir, Turkey on Fri­day to fly to the US

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