LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
A dispute between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey continued today with the Turkish president sounding defiant about the latest sanctions from Washington. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports one source of tension is an American pastor being held on espionage charges in Turkey.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The case of North Carolina pastor Andrew Brunson continues to sour Turkey's relations with Washington. But neither President Trump, nor Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears ready to give ground. Washington doubled sanctions on Turkish steel and aluminum as officials complained that Turkey's move to shift Brunson from prison to house arrest had failed to meet Washington's demand for his full release and return to the U.S.
Speaking in the Black Sea region of Turkey, Erdogan says there isn't any logical explanation for the recent fluctuations in the value of the Turkish lira, which closed the week trading at record lows against the dollar. The explanation Erdogan offers is that there must be a plot against Turkey. But he says the Turkish people won't give in. Erdogan also says Washington set a deadline of last Wednesday for Brunson's release. When he wasn't, the increased sanctions followed. Erdogan has been making similarly defiant comments all weekend. Saturday, he suggested that pressure from America would not bring Turkey to heel.
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PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Through interpreter) I'm calling out from here to those in America. It is a pity that you chose a pastor over your strategic partner in NATO.
KENYON: Washington says it's seen no credible evidence to support the charges against Brunson. Some critics accuse Turkey of arresting Americans as leverage in their demand for the extradition of the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup attempt in 2016. Besides the raising of tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel, the U.S. has sanctioned the Turkish interior and justice ministers. Ankara responded by levying similar largely symbolic sanctions against two U.S. Cabinet members.
Brunson is only one point of contention between Ankara and Washington these days. Turkey has also criticized the U.S. for supporting Kurdish fighters in northern Syria that Turkey considers terrorists. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.