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WASHINGTON: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Thursday said that the United States would levy more sanctions on the troubled Turkish economy if Ankara does not release an American pastor.

“We have put sanctions on several of their cabinet members,” Mnuchin told President Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting attended by the press.

“We have more that we are planning to do if they don't release him quickly,” Mnuchin said.

Editorial: Turkey-US spat

Trump prefaced Mnuchin’s remarks by saying that Turkey had not been a very good friend. Referring to imprisoned pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump said “they have a great Christian pastor there, he’s a very innocent man.”

The United States and Turkey have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs in Trump’s attempt to persuade Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to give up Brunson, who denies charges that he was involved in a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago.

“They have not proven to be a good friend,” Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting.

“They have a great Christian pastor there. He’s an innocent man.” The dispute over Brunson and other frictions between Washington and Ankara have been one reason the Turkish lira has plunged 40 per cent this year. Investors also fret over Erdogan’s influence over monetary policy.

The lira lost strength after Mnuchin’s remarks.

Trump said the United States had helped Turkey in a related incident, but that the Nato ally had not repaid the favour.

“They want to hold our wonderful pastor. Not fair, not right,” he added.

Trump, who doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, said the steel tariffs have kicked in the aluminum tariffs will take effect soon.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018