White House: 'We Won't Forget' How Turkey is Treating US Pastor

Daniel Fowler
August 17, 2018

Tensions between the USA and Turkey have been steadily rising since American pastor Andrew Brunson was detained by Turkish officials on charges of terrorism and espionage.

Erdogan has moved to shore up alliances in Europe and the Middle East, easing pressure on the battered lira, as the standoff with the US has deepened. The lira lost almost 40 percent against the dollar this year and suffered a staggering collapse on the heels of Trump's announcement of increased tariffs on metals. Erdogan, a self-described "enemy of interest rates", wants to lower borrowing costs despite high inflation.

Turkey will come out of the current currency volatility stronger, adding that the Turkish banking sector is healthy and strong. The sanctions, she explained, would block "any property or interest in property of both ministers within USA jurisdiction ... and us persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them".

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told President Donald Trump at a cabinet meeting on Thursday that sanctions were ready to be put in place if Brunson, who is on trial in Turkey on terrorism charges, was not freed. "We have more that we're planning to do if they don't release him quickly". He called Brunson "a great patriot hostage.".

In another high-profile case, a Turkish court ruled on August 15 to release from jail Taner Kilic, the local chair of Amnesty International, a researcher from the rights group said.

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President Donald Trump last week ramped up his attack on Turkey by increasing U.S. tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports. A Turkish court has rejected an appeal to release Brunson and lift his travel ban.

The Turkish currency began to recover after authorities this week took steps to help bank liquidity and limit swap transactions. But some economists have called for more decisive moves. Also helping the currency were moves by Turkey this week to gain favor with European countries, including releasing two Greek soldiers and an Amnesty International human rights campaigner from prison. For companies, the cost of servicing foreign debt has risen by a quarter in lira terms in the past two months.

"Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey's sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy", he asserted.

The lira, which earlier this week traded at well over seven to the dollar, was at 5.8 against the dollar and 6.7 against euro on Friday.

There are signs that the weakness in Turkish currency markets is already spreading.

The currency strengthened some 2 percent against the dollar, trading at around 5.85 per dollar, hours before Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak was scheduled to update global investors about the economy.

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