Donald Trump threatens North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey with sanctions over detained USA pastor

American Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, has been put under house arrest in Turkey due to his health problems

President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to slap "large sanctions" on Turkey unless it freed an American pastor, prompting an angry response from Ankara and further escalating tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

US President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence have threatened Turkey with sanctions if it fails to release jailed pastor Andrew Brunson.

A spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Washington's threats unacceptable and damaging to the U.S. -Turkey alliance.

Trump also has praised his counterpart, saying Erdogan's leadership is "getting very high marks".

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May: "Any time sanctions are put in place, countries have to give up economic activity".

A Turkish court in the city of Izmir said it was releasing Brunson, who was detained in October 2016, to his home due to health issues.

"He is suffering greatly". This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!' the president added from aboard Air Force One as he flew to Iowa for an event. Trump wrote on Twitter on July 26.

The sanctions, which will seek to bar foreign companies from doing business with Iran and block its oil sales overseas, have alarmed Turkey which has a strong trade relationship with its neighbour and imports Iranian crude.

"No one dictates Turkey".

Turkey's Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin responded to President Trump's threats, saying that the U.S. must understand that it can not reach desired results by threatening Turkey.

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Less than an hour earlier, Vice President Mike Pence declared that unless the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally releases the pastor promptly, the USA "will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously linked Brunson's return to the U.S. to the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Turkey's government holds responsible for the failed July 2016 military coup.

Halavurt also says Brunson's family is happy progress is being made in his case, but they still feel betrayed by the country their kids grew up in.

Trump's ambassador for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, said Brunson's detention had been raised with Turkey's leadership for some months, and while his transfer to house arrest was an improvement, "he is not free". One of Brunson's attorneys is Jay Sekulow, who also represents Trump in the Russian Federation investigation.

While the Kurds have proven themselves to be invaluable allies to the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the USA considers the PKK, a Kurdish independence movement inside Turkey, as a terrorist organization for its violent tactics.

"With regard to the Brunson case, necessary information has been provided to our USA counterparts on various occasions and it has been clearly expressed that this issue is totally within the competence of the independent Turkish judiciary", Aksoy told the agency.

Interested in Turkey? Add Turkey as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Turkey news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

"We recognize that the Iranian people enjoy few, if any, freedoms", said Pence, "least of all the freedom of religion". In Iraq, religious minority groups of Yazidis and Christians victimized by ISIS [Islamic State terror group] are still in dire need of security and assistance.

Mr Pompeo, who is also an evangelical, hosted the summit - the first of its kind to be held at the state department.

Brunson is accused of ties to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who lives in exile in the United States and whom Ankara blames for the coup attempt.

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