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US-Turkey Relations: Evangelicals pulling Trump’s strings in trade spat with Turkey - by ŞEYMA NAZLI GÜRBÜZ

The last few weeks have marked a feud between Turkey and the U.S., two countries that have been long-term NATO partners, due to an evangelical pastor detained in Turkey on terrorism-linked charges. Despite the strength of the relationship and the longevity of the partnership, the tension between the two countries escalated quickly and has reached a point where the U.S. levied sanctions on Turkey, causing difficulty for the Turkish economy. As the bonds between the countries are worsening day by day, experts have suggested that U.S. President Donald Trump's decisions are mainly being directed by evangelical concerns rather than the result of rational decision-making policies.

"It is clear that Trump is being affected by the interests of the evangelicals," said Şule Albayrak, an academic expert in the sociology of religion. "This approach became clearer with his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and was seen once again in his policies against Turkey," she added. On Sep. 2016, Andrew Brunson, a pastor at the Evangelic Resurrection Church in the western city of Izmir for 20 years, was arrested in Turkey for alleged links to the PKK terrorist group and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), who orchestrated the attempted coup on July 15, 2016.

Evangelical Christians have long lobbied for Washington to exert pressure on Ankara to secure Brunson's release; however, although Brunson has been under house arrest due to health concerns, his appeals of release have been rejected three times so far, the latest of which occurred last week. He is scheduled to appear before a court in October for his third hearing and faces 35 years in jail for charges of espionage.

As a response to Turkey for not releasing the pastor, Washington levied sanctions on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, a move that retaliated by Turkey. Last week, the White House said Washington has more sanctions ready if Turkey refuses to release Brunson, showing the risks Trump is willing to take to avoid disappointing the evangelicals.

Read more: Evangelicals pulling Trump’s strings in trade spat with Turkey - Daily Sabah

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