By Merve Ozlem Cakir
The deep-rooted economic relations with a foreign trade volume exceeding $20 billion between Ankara and Washington could be harmed through threats of sanctions, according to data compiled by Anadolu Agency on Friday.
"The problems must be solved by dialogue, not by threat. Channels must be kept open and discourses that cannot be reversed should be avoided," said Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, chairman of Turkey-U.S. Business Council.
During the first five months of 2018, a total foreign trade volume of $8.3 billion between the two countries was registered.
In the Jan-May period, Turkey surpassed $3.2 billion of exports to the U.S., with imports amounting $5.1 billion.
Turkey's foreign trade deficit in trade with the U.S. fell steadily in the last three years. In 2017, it fell by 22.4 percent compared to the previous year and reached $3.3 billion.
Exports to the U.S. increased by 30.7 percent year-on-year to $8.7 billion in 2017.
Meanwhile, imports from the U.S. totaled $11.9 billion in 2017, up 9.9 percent from the previous year.
The U.S. threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over detained American pastor Andrew Craig Brunson, who was arrested in the Aegean province of Izmir in December 2016.
Brunson was charged with committing crimes, including spying for the PKK terror group and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the defeated coup attempt of July 2016.
Turkish prosecutors demanded 15 years of imprisonment for committing crimes on behalf of terror organizations without being a member, while up to 20 years were sought for political or military espionage.
The Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court decided on Wednesday to turn Brunson's detention into house arrest due to his "health problems," allowing him to live at his address in Izmir, but barred him from "abandonment of residence" and also imposed a ban on him leaving the country.
In an attempt to interfere with NATO-member Turkey's judiciary, Trump on Thursday tweeted: "The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their longtime detainment of pastor Andrew Brunson."
Also, Vice President Mike Pence in a tweet threatened to impose "significant sanctions on Turkey until this innocent man of faith is free".
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday passed a legislation, dubbed the "Turkey International Financial Institutions Act", that would restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey until it frees arrested U.S. citizens including American pastor Brunson.
In a statement, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Thursday: “It is not possible to accept threatening language used towards our country, which is a NATO ally.”
“No one dictates Turkey. We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted.
Reporting by Merve Ozlem Cakir:Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev