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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Erdogan tells US: Turkey will find new friends

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacts to Donald Trump increasing US tariffs on steel and aluminium

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party in Rize on August 11, 2018. Presidential Palace via Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party in Rize on August 11, 2018. Presidential Palace via Reuters

The crash of the lira is a political plot against Turkey, and the country will seek new allies and new markets if the United States cut ties, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.

Speaking on Sunday, the Turkish President, for the third day in a row, called on citizens to sell dollars and euros to shore up the lira, the value of which plummeted 14 per cent on Friday.

Talking to a crowd of supporters in the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon, Mr Erdogan said the current fluctuations in the exchange rate could not be explained by logic.

"The aim of the operation is to make Turkey surrender in all areas from finance to politics. We are once again facing a political, underhand plot. With God's permission we will overcome this," Erdogan told his party members in the Black Sea city of Trabzon.

Mr Erdogan said if the United States sacrificed its relations with Turkey, they would seek "new markets, new partnerships and new allies."

The President also ruled out using interest rates to shore up the currency, calling them a tool of exploitation, which makes rich richer and the poor poorer.

On Saturday, Mr Erdogan warned that the United States is turning its back on Turkey and putting relations between the Nato allies in jeopardy after the US President Donald Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium.

"This treatment by America of its strategic partner has annoyed us, it has upset us," Mr Erdogan said.

The new tariffs announced on Friday come as the US increases pressure for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in Turkish custody since 2016 on charges of espionage.

The announcement pushed the weakening Turkish lira down further on a day when it had already hit a record low against the dollar, but Mr Erdogan remained defiant.

"It is wrong to dare bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pastor," Mr Erdogan told supporters.

"Shame on you, shame on you," he said, directing his remarks at Washington. "You are exchanging your strategic partner in Nato for a priest."

Mr Trump has insisted that Mr Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, be released “without delay”; Mr Erdogan insists his government cannot interfere with the judicial process.

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The US this month imposed sanctions on two ministers over the pastor’s detention, and talks to resolve the issue in Washington last week ended without result.

In a New York Times article on Saturday, Mr Erdogan warned that Turkey would be forced to seek new friends.

"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 wrote.

“Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies.”

Experts are divided over how the standoff can be resolved. Henri Barkey, a professor of International Relations at Lehigh University, the tariffs “an unnecessary escalation” and advised direct talks between Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan.

However, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations said an early resolution to the crisis was unlikely.

“It is hard to imagine how the United States and Turkey repair their relationship, which was already faltering, after this episode,” Mr Cook told The National.

“The US and Turkey are breaking up.”

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