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Erdogan calls for the freezing of assets in Turkey of US ministers

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday demanded the freezing in Turkey of the assets of US officials, responding to similar sanctions by Washington in connection with the detention of an American pastor.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, appeared to want to curb the escalation of tensions between the two countries, allied within NATO, at a time when the already fragile Turkish economy could be heavily affected by more economic sanctions.

"Until last night we remained patient. Today I give the instruction: we will freeze the holdings in Turkey of US Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, if they have any, "Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara.

This statement is a direct response to the US decision to sanction Turkish Interior Ministers Süleyman Soylu and Justice Abdülhamit Gül on Wednesday.

Both are targeted for their alleged role in the lawsuit against Andrew Brunson, an American pastor charged with "terrorist" and espionage activities in Turkey.

million. Brunson, who strongly denies the charges, was placed under house arrest last week after a year and a half of detention.

However, it was unclear Saturday whether the Turkish president was referring to Interior Minister Ryan Zinke, who is primarily responsible for National Parks and Indian Affairs, or Minister of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

Interviewed by AFP, Turkish officials did not give further details.

– "Risk of New Sanctions" –

US sanctions consist of the seizure of the property and assets of Messrs. Soylu and Gül, and the prohibition of any US citizen to do business with these Turkish officials.

The two ministers, however, have assured themselves that they have no property in the United States, just as it is unlikely that the US ministers referred to by Mr. Erdogan will have any in Turkey, which makes these sanctions very symbolic.

However, it is "significant and unprecedented for two NATO allies to sanction members of their respective governments," says former US diplomat Amanda Sloat, now a researcher for the Brookings Institution think tank.

Despite this, they may, according to experts, have an impact on a Turkish economy weakened by high inflation and a weakened currency.

The Turkish lira has been trading since Wednesday night at over TRY 5 against a dollar, a historic low.

Source: AFP

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