Tensions are running high as the face off between the United States and Turkey continues. This latest diplomatic riff has the potential for dangerous ramifications, as Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey arrested pastor Andrew Brunson following a failed coup in 2016, accusing him of having connections with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), whom Turkey along with the US State Department classify a terrorist organization. Brunson has been imprisoned for two years.
President Trump tweeted about Brunson’s imprisonment, calling on the Turkish government to free him or be faced with “large sanctions”. The US State Department has said freeing the evangelical pastor has become a pressing issue for the President.
Turkey has refused the American demands to free the jailed pastor. Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan has told reporters “We will not take a step back when faced with sanctions.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke over the phone Saturday to discuss the escalating issue.
The face off is also revolving around issues regarding the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. U.S. Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis has voiced objections to Turkey acquiring the cutting edge fighter. These objections have prompted Congress to consider a bill banning the sale of the F-35 to Turkey for the time being. Turkey recently purchased the Russian S-400 air defense system, and many fear Turkey owning both the S-400 and the F-35 could compromise sensitive information about the fighter jet. Erdogan has not taken a potential halt in the F-35 sale lightly. On Saturday, he said Turkey will apply international arbitration if the U.S. blocks the sale.