US-Turkey crisis could end instantly if pastor freed

TEL AVIV: Turkey could end its lira-battering crisis with the United States “instantly” by freeing a detained American pastor, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said, adding that a foreign cash infusion would not help Ankara’s economy. The Turkish currency has been in freefall since Washington ordered tariffs in retaliation for the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson on charges of complicity in a failed 2016 coup.
Brunson denies wrongdoing, and Ankara has in the past suggested his fate could be linked to that of a US-based Turkish cleric whom President Tayyip Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the attempted putsch.
“Look, the Turkish government made a big mistake in not releasing Pastor Brunson,” Bolton said 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.”
Asked if the United States questioned Turkey’s membership in Nato given the stand-off, Bolton said: “That’s not an issue at the moment. We’re focused on Pastor Brunson and the other Americans that the Turkish government’s holding illegitimately and we expect that to get resolved.”
Qatar’s Emir this month approved a package of economic projects, including a $15 billion pledge of support, for Turkey, giving a boost to a lira that has lost some 37 per cent of its value this year.
Bolton was sceptical about the intervention by the Gulf state.
“Well, I think what they pledged is utterly insufficient to have an impact on Turkey’s economy. It’s certainly not helpful but we’ll actually see what develops from their pledge,” he said.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the pastor on trial for terrorism charges in Turkey said on Wednesday he plans to appeal to the constitutional court to seek Andrew Brunson’s release after being rejected by a lower court last week.
Brunson is at the centre of a row between Turkey and the United States, which has exacerbated a crisis in Turkey’s lira and reverberated across global markets.
The pastor, who has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. He is under house arrest.
“Once the upper court’s rejection has been confirmed in writing we will apply to the constitutional court,” lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt said in comments reported by Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that he confirmed to Reuters.
Once domestic legal avenues are exhausted, if necessary the defence would then apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), he said.
“We are hopeful regarding the constitutional court, but if it is rejected there, we will go to the ECHR without hesitation,” he said.
The court in Turkey’s Izmir province which last week rejected the appeal said evidence was still being collected and the pastor posed a
flight risk, according to a copy of the court ruling. — Reuters