Turkey is currently struggling with a severe currency crisis, triggered by escalating US sanctions, which Washington ordered in retaliation for the detention of Evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson, who is accused of taking part in a failed 2016 coup. On Tuesday, Bolton noted that the freefall of the lira could end instantly if Turkey was to release the US citizen who is facing 35 years in a Turkish prison.
“Look, the Turkish government made a big mistake in not releasing Pastor Brunson,” Bolton told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Israel. “Every day that goes by that mistake continues, this crisis could be over instantly if they did the right thing as a NATO ally, part of the West, and release pastor Brunson without condition.”
Ankara has condemned Washington for its pressure campaign over the pastor’s detention, which Ankara views as a purely legal issue. “[Bolton’s] statement is proof that the Trump administration is targeting a NATO ally as part of an economic war,” President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters, noting that Turkey will not “keep silent” when its economy and judiciary are attacked.
“The Trump administration has … established that it intends to use trade tariffs and sanctions to start a global trade war,” he stressed, pointing to similar disputes with Mexico, Canada, Europe and China. “The US administration’s most recent policies are at odds with the fundamental principles and values of the NATO alliance.”
The Turkish lira took a massive hit against the dollar earlier this month, following Trump’s decision to double tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey to 20 and 50 percent. Overall, the national currency lost roughly about 40 percent of its value this year.
To battle the economic downfall the government has introduced a number of countermeasures, and announced tariffs on imports of certain goods from the US, including cars, alcohol, and tobacco. Qatar, meanwhile, pledged $15 billion of direct investment into Turkish markets, all while Turkey filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against US tariffs on Turkish products. Trump in return promised more sanctions unless Ankara bows to the US demand to release the “wonderful” pastor.