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Turkey, US in diplomatic crisis after ministers hit by sanctions

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ISTANBUL: Turkey and the United States were on Thursday locked in the most serious diplomatic crisis between the NATO allies in years after Washington slapped sanctions on two senior Turkish ministers and Ankara vowed to retaliate.

Tensions have ratcheted up in recent weeks over Turkey’s detention on terror charges of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was first detained in October 2016 and was moved to house arrest last week.

The move to house arrest of Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, inflamed rather than defused tensions, with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warning Turkey it faced sanctions.

The sanctions targeting Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

“These officials serve as leaders of Turkish government organisations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders told journalists both ministers had “played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson”. The Turkish foreign ministry warned that the move “will greatly damage constructive efforts” to solve outstanding issues and told Washington it would retaliate.–Agencies

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