22:12 GMT08 March 2021
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    A Turkish court has rejected an appeal to release a US pastor being held under house arrest in Turkey - one whose detention on terror-related charges has strained relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington. In turn, the US sanctioned on Wednesday Turkey's justice and interior ministers for their roles in the arrest of Andrew Brunson.

    Sputnik spoke to Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies at the Charles Sturt University, for more insights on the issue.

    Sputnik: Turkey will retaliate against any US sanctions but expects the two countries to resolve their differences through diplomacy. How significant is this?

    Mehmet Ozalp: It doesn’t look like it’s that serious – it’s one of those Trump threats signaling his frustration with the Turkish diplomacy and why turkey is not able to release Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been locked up in Turkish jails for two years on charges for helping the coup with no evidence; so America is really frustrated about that.

    It looks like Erdogan government is using Brunson as a bargaining chip to get other things, which the US is not able or not prepared to comply.

    Sputnik: Relations between Turkey and the United States have been tense over multiple issues including American support for a Syrian Kurdish militia, who Turkey claims are terrorists, as well as the failure to extradite a US-based Muslim preacher. If relations worsen further what effect will this have on relations between Turkey and the US?

    Mehmet Ozalp:  It’s a bit more complex than that. Yes certainly, the Erdogan government wants Fethullah Gulen extradited to Turkey and we might even think that Pastor Brunson was arrested as a bargaining chip for that in relation to the coup charges, but Turkey has not been able to provide any evidence that Fethullah Gulen was involved with the Kurds, so America is not prepared to release him.

    However, America has been helping the Kurdish regions in Syria, and that’s goes against Turkey’s foreign policy in Syria, so there have been clashes in that respect to foreign policy, but also in economic terms; we might say that there are no parallels between the Trump government and the Erdogan government at this stage, with very little intersection between the two.

    Sputnik: If things worsen, could we see Turkey's closer allies jump in behind the country against US sanctions?

    Mehmet Ozalp: There could be some sanctions coming across Turkey’s way; releasing F-35 planes, that was stopped by congress and the congress does have power to put sanctions independent of Trump’s government – so we might actually see that happening…

    It might even be linked to the S400 missile between Turkey and Russia, which America is not happy with or that NATO is not happy with. 

    Turkey and the Erdogan government is taking a course that is independent and at odds of the US policies and is bound to be clashed and I think the US has a better Trump card than Turkey and that we might see some sanctions that might hurt the Turkish economy.

    The views and opinions expressed by Mehmet Ozalp do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    pastor, bargain, arrest, diplomacy, sanctions, Mehmet Ozalp, Andrew Brunson, Turkey, US
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