August 10, 2018 / 10:16 PM / 4 months ago

FACTBOX-Issues leading to the tailspin in U.S.-Turkey relations

    By Daphne Psaledakis
    Aug 10 (Reuters) - Turkey is a key NATO ally to the United
States, but the countries' bilateral relationship has become
quite strained.
    Reverberations spread through global markets on Friday after
U.S. President Donald Trump imposed higher tariffs on metal
imports from Turkey, sending the country's lira currency
            deeper into a tailspin.             
    The fallout has been exacerbated over American Christian
pastor Andrew Brunson, who is now under house arrest in Turkey.
The Trump administration has demanded his release.
    But Brunson is not the only sticking point between the two
countries. The following is a look at a few of the issues that
have contributed to the deterioration in relations between the
United States and Turkey:
    
    FALLOUT OVER HALKBANK & IRAN SANCTIONS CASE
    A U.S. court in May sentenced Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a Turkish
citizen and banker at Turkey's state-controlled Halkbank
          , to 32 months in prison after he was convicted of
taking part in a scheme to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
            
    Federal prosecutors accused Atilla of conspiring with gold
trader Reza Zarrab and others to elude U.S. sanctions using
fraudulent gold and food transactions. Zarrab pleaded guilty and
testified for the prosecutors.
    Zarrab described a scheme that he said included bribes to
Turkish government officials and that was carried out with the
blessing of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. 
    Erdogan has condemned the case as a political attack on his
government.             
    The United States is also considering a fine against
Halkbank for allegedly helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions,
drawing additional opprobrium from Ankara. 
    Turkish diplomats visited Washington this week to address
frictions between the NATO allies fueled by Ankara's detention
of U.S. consular staff, as well as Brunson, but no breakthrough
was announced.
    The team also held a meeting with the U.S. Treasury, which
imposed sanctions on Turkey's justice and interior minister over
Brunson's imprisonment.
    
    TENSIONS OVER MANBIJ, YPG
    Turkey is infuriated with the United States over its support
for the YPG militia in Syria, which Ankara sees as a terrorist
organization. Washington sees the militia as a key ally in the
fight against the Islamic State.             
    With U.S. forces stationed alongside Kurdish YPG fighters in
northern Syria, Erdogan warned earlier this year that U.S.
soldiers could be caught in the cross-fire of Turkish military
action against the militia near the town of Manbij.
    In June, the two countries agreed that the YPG would
withdraw from Manbij and began coordinated but independent
patrols near the city.             
    Erdogan last week said that he did not expect the joint
roadmap with the United States regarding Manbij to be impacted
by bilateral tensions.

    TURKEY'S FAILED COUP AND EXILED CLERIC
    Turkey's demand the United States extradite Islamic cleric
Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara has said orchestrated a failed 2016
military coup against Erdogan is another sore point between the
two countries.
    U.S. officials have said the courts would require sufficient
evidence to extradite the elderly Gulen, who has denied any
involvement in the coup.
    The attempted coup is at the center of the most recent
fallout between Washington and Ankara over the detention of
Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey
for over 20 years.
    Brunson is being held on terrorism charges for allegedly
supporting Gulen's network, blamed by Ankara for the failed
coup. He has denied those charges. He faces up to 35 years if
found guilty. His appeal to be released from house arrest was
rejected.
  
    F-35 VS S-400 
    Washington is also concerned about a deal made between
Turkey and Russia for the purchase of Russian S-400
surface-to-air missile batteries, which are not compatible with
NATO's defenses.
    Congress has put up roadblocks over the delivery of advanced
F-35 fighter jets following the agreement Ankara made with
Moscow. 
    The Turkish delegation visiting Washington earlier this week
to discuss Brunson pushed for the delivery of the F-35s, a U.S.
official familiar with both sides' positions said.             

    DETENTIONS OF U.S. CONSULAR STAFF 
    Turkey last year arrested a translator at the U.S. consulate
in the southern province of Adana and detained a Drug
Enforcement Administration employee in Istanbul.             
    Turkey and the United States suspended the issuance of visas
last year after Washington complained about the detention of two
locally-hired consular employees on suspicion of a role in the
failed 2016 coup. Both countries resumed issuing visas in
December.
    Washington also says a third locally employed consular
staffer is under house arrest.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. STREET BRAWL
    Erdogan was vocal against the U.S. justice system over the
indictment of his security personnel, who engaged in a brawl
with protesters during Erdogan's visit to Washington in May 2017
where 11 people were hurt.
    Washington's police chief described it as a "brutal attack"
on peaceful protesters.
    U.S. prosecutors in March decided to dismiss charges against
11 of 15 members of Erdogan's security team.
    Assault charges are pending against four remaining members.
    "This is a complete scandal," Erdogan told reporters after
prayers for the Muslim Eid al-Adha celebration in September
2017. "It is a scandalous sign of how justice works in the
United States."             

    
 (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Yara Bayoumy and G
Crosse)
  
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