U.S. Threatens Further Sanctions Against Turkey Over Detained Pastor

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Relations between Ankara and Washington have soured in recent weeks following Washington's imposition of sanctions on Turkish officials over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is under house arrest in Turkey on terrorism charges.

The court's decision came as Turkey and the United States exchanged new threats of sanctions, keeping alive a diplomatic and financial crisis that is threatening the economic stability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation country.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, had rebounded slightly over the last three days but on Friday it lost almost five percent of its value and was quoted at 6.1 against the dollar.

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured President Donald Trump at a Cabinet meeting that sanctions were ready to be put in place if Brunson was not freed".

"They should have given him back a long time ago, and Turkey has in my opinion acted very, very badly, so we haven't seen the last of that".

In remarks at Thursday's Cabinet meeting, Trump voiced his disappointment with Turkey in personal terms, saying the country has "not proven to be a good friend". Turkey's dollar bonds fell, while the cost of insuring exposure to Turkish debt rose.

In response, Erdogan launched a boycott of United States electrical products and sharply raised tariffs on other United States imports.

Stocks have been volatile all week as markets have weighed the possibility of economic carnage sparked by with Turkey, which is mired in a fight with the United States over a detained American pastor.

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It said the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep has halted imports of American brands and products. Administration sources says further sanctions against Turkey are under active consideration.

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The latest USA announcement came after Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sought to soothe markets during an unprecedented teleconference on Thursday with hundreds of foreign investors from the United States, Europe to Asia.

A State Department spokesman said Friday that "the USA government is following Pastor Andrew Brunson's case closely, and we continue to provide all appropriate consular services to Mr. Brunson".

Ankara has accused Brunson of being linked to the Gulen movement, which it says was responsible for the failed coup attempt in 2016.

Should private Turkish debtors, who owe around 75% of Turkey's external debt, fail to service their share as a result of the nosediving lira and creditors' unwillingness to lend any more hard currency, the European financial system might have to absorb significant losses.

Erdogan thanked the emir and the people of Qatar for "standing by Turkey", the official Anadolu news agency reported. Both Brunson and top USA officials say the accusations are false.

Other emerging market currencies, such as Russia's ruble and Mexico's peso, also rose.

Erdogan has moved to shore up alliances in Europe and the Middle East, easing pressure on the battered lira, as the standoff with the USA has deepened.

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