ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Turkey would impose sanctions on two US officials in retaliation for a similar move by Washington, hitting back in an unprecedented row between the Nato allies.
Turkey’s holding of pastor Andrew Brunson on terror-related charges for almost two years has sparked one of the most intense crises between Washington and Ankara since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
But in his first comments on the dispute since Washington imposed the sanctions on Wednesday, Erdogan also appeared keen to ward off any further escalation by saying that neither side had an interest in a “lose-lose” scenario.
“Today I will give our friends instructions to freeze the assets in Turkey of the American justice and interior ministers, if they have any (such assets),” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
He did not specify to which members of the US administration he was referring.
While the United States does not have an interior ministry similar to Turkey, the Secretary of the Interior is Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is Kirstjen Nielsen and US attorney general is Jeff Sessions. Erdogan’s announcement was a response to Washington’s decision to impose sanctions on Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul over Brunson’s detention.