US changing strategic NATO partner with pastor, Turkish President Erdoğan says
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited on Aug. 11 the northern province of Ordu's Ünye district, which was hit hard by flash floods earlier this week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned that the United States is "changing a strategic NATO partner with a pastor" in his latest statement about the ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries over the arrest of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
"We only bow down before God. It is wrong to try to chasten Turkey for a priest here. I am addressing the U.S. once again: It's a shame. You are changing a strategic NATO partner with a pastor. We will only do whatever justice requires," Erdoğan said in a rally in the northern province of Ordu during his tour of flood-hit Black Sea towns on Aug. 11.
In the next stop of the tour, Erdoğan spoke in his hometown, Rize. "They want us to release [Brunson] by 6 p.m tomorrow with threats," he said, referring the U.S. decisions as "missiles in economic warfare."
Turkish officials held meetings on Aug. 8 with the State Department’s No. 2 official, John Sullivan, following a move by the U.S. to hit two senior Turkish government ministers with sanctions over the detention of Brunson.
While the two sides stated that the talks will continue, U.S. President Donald Trump announced higher tariffs on imports from Turkey as the Turkish Lira continued to tumble on Aug. 10.
Erdoğan on Aug. 11 repeated a call on Turks to sell dollars and euros to support the national currency.
'Don't force Turkey to look for other friends'
Failure of the U.S. to reverse the "trend of unilateralism and disrespect" will force Turkey to look for new friends and allies, Erdoğan said in an opinion piece published by the New York Times on Aug. 11.
After reminding the long history of friendly bilateral relations, Erdoğan said: "Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy."
Turkish President likened the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey to Pearl Harbor attack, noting that the U.S. failed to "unequivocally condemn the attack and express solidarity with Turkey’s elected leadership" following the defeated putsch, while the leader of the coup plotters, Fethullah Gülen, still lives in Pennsylvania.
As another source of strained ties, Erdoğan also cited the U.S. support for the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is considered by Ankara as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a terrorist organization according to both countries.
The Brunson issue was the last straw, according to Erdoğan. "Instead of respecting the judicial process, as I urged President Trump to do in our many meetings and conversations, the United States issued blatant threats against a friendly nation and proceeded to impose sanctions on several members of my cabinet. This decision was unacceptable, irrational and ultimately detrimental to our longstanding friendship," he said.
Repeating that Turkey would not respond to threats and will take necessary steps to protect its national interests, Erdoğan warned that Ankara "will take care of its own business if the United States refuses to listen," like it did in the 1970s when the Turkish government stepped in to prevent massacres of ethnic Turks by the Greek Cypriots despite Washington’s objections.
Kalın: Entire Turkish public is against US policies
"At a time when evil continues to lurk around the world, unilateral actions against Turkey by the United States, our ally of decades, will only serve to undermine American interests and security. Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives," Erdoğan concluded. "Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies."
Hours after Erdoğan's article was published, his spokesman İbrahim Kalın tweeted that "the U.S. runs the risk of losing Turkey as a whole. The entire Turkish public is against U.S. policies that disregard Turkey's legitimate security demands. Threats, sanctions and bullying will not work. It will only increase Turkey's resolve."