The U.S. State Department on Wednesday joined the chorus in denying the U.S. responsibility for Turkey’s current economic disturbances.
Earlier on the same day, the White House said that the U.S. side would consider lifting sanctions on two Turkish ministers if the country released an American pastor.
In a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that “Turkey’s financial situation has been in the works for quite some time and it dates prior to the imposition of sanctions” on Aug. 1.
“This has been in training for quite some time and you cannot blame the U.S. government for that,” she said.
She urged Ankara to release the detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, three locally employed staff of the U.S. embassy, and a NASA scientist.
Speaking of an earlier decision of a Turkish court that denied Brunson’s appeal to be released, Nauert said Washington is disappointed by it.
Earlier on the same day, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders also said in a press briefing that “Turkey’s economic problems, those are a part of a long-term trend — something of its own making, and not the result of any actions the United States has taken.”
Notably, she said that the U.S. side would consider lifting sanctions that have been placed on Turkey in specific regards to Brunson and other detained if Ankara released them.
“The tariffs that are in place on steel would not be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson. The tariffs are specific to national security,” she said. “The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to Pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly. And we would consider that at that point.”
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence warned Turkey not to test the resolve of President Donald Trump on the case of Brunson.
Saying that Brunson is innocent and “justice demands that he be released,” Pence noted that he and Trump “continue to stand firm” until Brunson is released and returns to the United States.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Aug. 1 slapped sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers, citing their roles in the detention of a U.S. pastor.
Brunson, a 50-year-old Christian pastor, was detained two years ago in Turkey on spying charges, and faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty.
He was indicted on charges of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which Turkey accuses of being behind a coup attempt in 2016 to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.