Er­do­gan vows to defy US ‘threats’ af­ter lira crashes

Pres­i­dent vows no con­ces­sions • Ankara eyes new al­lies • Iran slams US ‘bul­ly­ing’

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

ISTANBUL: Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan vowed yes­ter­day to defy US “threats” over a de­tained pas­tor, show­ing no signs of con­ces­sions in a bit­ter row that has caused the Turk­ish lira to crash. Re­la­tions be­tween the two NATO al­lies have sunk to their low­est point in decades over a string of is­sues in­clud­ing the de­ten­tion of US pas­tor An­drew Brun­son on ter­ror-re­lated charges, prompt­ing the lira to hit record lows against the dol­lar.

The Turk­ish strong­man also lashed out at in­ter­est rates, de­nounced them as a “tool of ex­ploita­tion” which should be kept as low as pos­si­ble. The em­bat­tled lira tum­bled 16 per­cent against the dol­lar on Fri­day, fall­ing fur­ther when US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said he had dou­bled steel and alu­minium tar­iffs on Turkey. “It is wrong to dare bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pas­tor,” Er­do­gan said in the Black Sea town of Unye. “Shame on you, shame on you,” he said in re­marks di­rectly ad­dressed to Wash­ing­ton. “You are ex­chang­ing your strate­gic part­ner in NATO for a priest.”

Trump an­nounced the puni­tive dou­bling of tar­iffs on Twit­ter, with the White House say­ing the sanc­tions would take ef­fect from Aug 13. In a sec­ond speech, this time in the Black Sea city of Rize, Er­do­gan ruled out any change in the coun­try’s in­ter­est rates pol­icy. “In­ter­est rates should be kept to a min­i­mum be­cause they are a tool of ex­ploita­tion that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer,” he said. “The coun­try is nei­ther crum­bling, nor be­ing de­stroyed or bank­rupt or in a cri­sis,” he said, and added that the way out of the ‘cur­rency plot’ was to boost pro­duc­tion and “min­i­mize in­ter­est rates”.

“I am ask­ing you. What pos­si­ble rea­son could there be be­hind the lira which was at 2.8 against dol­lar in July 15, 2016 to slide below 6 yes­ter­day? Dur­ing this pe­riod, Turkey has set records in its ex­ports, pro­duc­tion and em­ploy­ment,” Er­do­gan said. He re­peated a long-stand­ing plan to shift to trad­ing in na­tional cur­ren­cies and said Turkey was pre­par­ing for such a step with Rus­sia, China and Ukraine.

The nom­i­nally in­de­pen­dent cen­tral bank has de­fied pres­sure over the last few weeks to hike in­ter­est rates in the face of high in­fla­tion and a col­laps­ing cur­rency. Er­do­gan has down­played the cur­rency cri­sis, urg­ing Turks to con­vert any stashed-away gold or for­eign cur­rency into lira, thereby wag­ing a “war of in­de­pen­dence” against Amer­ica. “If they have the dol­lar, we have Al­lah,” he said. Er­do­gan said high for­eign ex­change rates were be­ing used as a weapon against Turkey. “We know very well that the is­sue is not the dol­lar, the euro or gold. These are the bul­lets, can­non­balls and mis­siles of an eco­nomic war waged against our coun­try,” he said. Ankara had al­ready taken mea­sures to re­spond and would con­tinue do­ing so, he added.

In an op-ed pub­lished in New York Times, Er­do­gan warned Wash­ing­ton not to risk its re­la­tions with Ankara, say­ing other­wise it would look for “new friends and al­lies”. “Un­less the United States starts re­spect­ing Turkey’s sovereignty and proves that it un­der­stands the dan­gers our na­tion faces, our part­ner­ship could be in jeop­ardy,” he wrote.

“Be­fore it is too late, Wash­ing­ton must give up the mis­guided no­tion that our re­la­tion­ship can be asym­met­ri­cal and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has al­ter­na­tives. Fail­ure to re­verse this trend of uni­lat­er­al­ism and dis­re­spect will re­quire us to start look­ing for new friends and al­lies,” Er­do­gan added. In Rize, Er­do­gan said the US would pay a price by chal­leng­ing Turkey for the sake of “petty cal­cu­la­tions”, de­nounc­ing Wash­ing­ton for declar­ing “eco­nomic war on the en­tire world” and hold­ing coun­tries “for ran­som through sanc­tion threats”.

Writ­ing on Twit­ter, Iran’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif also ac­cused Wash­ing­ton of an “ad­dic­tion to sanc­tions and bul­ly­ing”. Trump’s “ju­bi­la­tion in in­flict­ing eco­nomic hard­ship on its NATO ally Turkey is shame­ful,” he wrote. “The US has to re­ha­bil­i­tate its ad­dic­tion to sanc­tions (and) bul­ly­ing or the en­tire world will unite - be­yond ver­bal con­dem­na­tions to force it to,” he warned.

Iran has also suf­fered a ma­jor tum­bling of its cur­rency this year partly over the reim­po­si­tion of US sanc­tions af­ter Trump aban­doned the 2015 nu­clear deal. Er­do­gan had on Fri­day held a phone call with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to dis­cuss eco­nomic and trade is­sues as well as the Syria cri­sis. The lat­est es­ca­la­tion be­tween Ankara and Wash­ing­ton was de­nounced by the Turk­ish press, with pro-gov­ern­ment daily Sabah say­ing “the cur­rency at­tack” was no dif­fer­ent from the at­tempted coup of July 2016.

Al­though the pas­tor’s ar­rest has soured al­ready-frag­ile ties with Wash­ing­ton, Er­do­gan said there would be no letup in Brun­son’s case, vow­ing: “We have not made con­ces­sions on jus­tice so far, and we will never make any.” Er­do­gan also ap­peared to al­lude to a ‘dead­line’ for hand­ing over Brun­son, al­though he did not name the United States as hav­ing set any such dead­line or say pre­cisely when it might have ex­pired. “(They are) threat­en­ing, say­ing you will send (him) un­til 6 pm ... This is not some ran­dom coun­try. This is Turkey,” he said.

In a sep­a­rate opin­ion piece in the pro-gov­ern­ment news­pa­per Daily Sabah, Er­do­gan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s ef­forts to solve the cri­sis with diplo­matic meth­ods have been dismissed by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, warn­ing that Wash­ing­ton might com­pletely lose Ankara as an ally. “The US runs the risk of los­ing Turkey as a whole. The en­tire Turk­ish pub­lic is against US poli­cies that dis­re­gard Turkey’s le­git­i­mate se­cu­rity de­mands. Threats, sanc­tions and bul­ly­ing against Turkey will not work,” he said. — Agen­cies

ORDU, Turkey: Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan ad­dresses peo­ple in the Unye dis­trict dur­ing his visit to a flooded area in this Black Sea prov­ince yes­ter­day. — AFP

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