The United States will not remove steel and aluminium tariffs placed on Turkish imports even if Turkey decides to release American Pastor Andrew Brunson, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
"The tariffs that are in place on steel would not be removed with the release of Pastor Brunson. The tariffs are specific to national security. The sanctions, however, that have been placed on Turkey are specific to Pastor Brunson and others that we feel are being held unfairly and we would consider that at that point," Sanders told reporters.
The dispute is one of several between Washington and Ankara, including 'diverging' interests in Syria and U.S. objections to Ankara's ambition to buy Russian defence systems, that have contributed to instability in Turkish financial markets.
The sanctions that could be removed were put in place against Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu over allegedly having "leading roles" in the imprisonment of US pastor Andrew Brunson as well as in other human rights abuses.
Sanders told reporters that Andrew Brunson is "a very good person and a strong Christian who's done nothing wrong." She says that Turkey has treated him "very unfairly, very badly."
Sanders also criticized Turkey's imposition of tariffs on some U.S. goods as "regrettable and a step in the wrong direction." She wouldn't be drawn on whether the Trump administration would respond.
Turkey jailed Brunson two years ago for his alleged ties to the network founded by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is one of the masterminds of the 2016 failed military coup.