U.S. plans more sanctions against Turkey if pastor not released

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Turkey is reeling from a massive sell-off of its currency as Washington imposed sanctions and threatened new ones if an American pastor under house arrest isn't released.

The lira, which has lost some 40 percent of its value this year, weakened beyond 6.21 against the U.S. dollar after the news, from 6.04 beforehand.

A day after two major ratings agencies downgraded Turkey closer to junk status amid a currency crisis, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he would challenge those playing "games" on the economy.

Investors, already anxious about Turkey's economy, were irked by a diplomatic and trade dispute with the United States over the continued detention of an American pastor Andrew Brunson on espionage and terror-related charges.

"We feel that Turkey, and specifically President Erdogan, have treated Pastor Brunson - who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian who's done nothing wrong - very unfairly, very badly", White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday, Kurdistan24 reported.

While I remain hopeful for the expeditious release of Pastor Andrew, let me be clear that we fully support the President's action in refusing to pay a ransom to Turkey - a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally - for the release of an innocent man.

The slide sent jitters across emerging market currencies. "The US wishes to tell the Turkish society that its leader has to be removed".

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He said: "We tell them that we see their game and we challenge them". He did not elaborate on what measures the U.S. is willing to take if Turkey continues to play hardball over Brunson.

"Qatar has pledged United States dollars 15 billion of direct investments in Turkey", presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter yesterday.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium imports.

Turkey is also seemingly on the brink of a major debt crisis, as a weakening lira makes it harder for Ankara to pay its global dues.

Further sanctions would likely make this an even more likely outcome, and could cause an even greater spiral effect on the state. "The Europeans will maintain the existing objections to certain Erdogan policies and continue to voice their concerns, but that won't stop them from developing pragmatic cooperation with Turkey", he said. In the Gulf crisis, Turkey sided with Qatar, which was the rightful side.

An Istanbul court allowed the release of Amnesty International's Turkey chair Taner Kilic Wednesday, who spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup bid.

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