Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responding to a threat by U.S. President Donald Trump to slap sanctions on Ankara if it did not free an American pastor, said his country would stand its ground, Haberturk TV reported Sunday.
The friendship between the United States and Turkey is on the line in this dispute, Erdogan said, according to TRT Haber and other media.
“We will not take a step back when faced with sanctions,” Erdogan was quoted as saying. “They should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner.”
American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was transferred to house arrest this week after 21 months of detention in a Turkish prison, has worked in Turkey for more than two decades. He has been accused of supporting the group Ankara says was behind a failed military coup in 2016, and of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The pastor, who has denied the charges, faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
Diplomats have been working to settle the tense dispute, and on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the status of the pastor with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the State Department said.
Also Sunday, Haberturk TV quoted Erdogan as saying that Turkey would resort to international arbitration if the United States blocked the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Ankara.
Erdogan also said Turkey had asked for U.S. help in securing the return to Turkey of Turkish citizen Ebru Ozkan, detained in Israel, Haberturk reported.