Speaking at the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Vice President Mike Pence threatened Turkey with sanctions unless pastor Andrew Brunson is released. Last week, Brunson’s detention was extended but this week he was released to house arrest citing health reasons. Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reinforced the threat by calling for restricting loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of U.S. citizens.
In a statement, the ANCA, Hellenic American Leadership Council and In Defense of Christians declared, “This strong stand represents a first meaningful step toward ending a century of U.S. appeasement of Ankara – on issues ranging from freedom of religion and the crushing of domestic dissent to its military occupation of Cyprus, denial of the Armenian Genocide, attempts to undermine Israel, and brutal attacks on the Kurds.”
The declaration went further, “We encourage the White House to stop the reckless sale of F-35s to Erdogan’s undemocratic and increasingly anti-American regime, and urge the Departments of State and Defense to suspend any new bilateral cooperation until they have conducted a joint review of the current state of the U.S.-Turkey relationship and the future prospects for Turkey’s continued membership in NATO.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted on Twitter, “We welcome long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest in
#Turkey, but it is not enough. We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner.”
On his Twitter account, President Donald Trump more forcefully stated “The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!”
A written statement by Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan), responded, “The United States must reconsider its approach and adopt a constructive position before inflicting further damage to its own interests and its alliance with Turkey.”