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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Theresa May discusses threat of possible escalation in Syria in talks with Erdogan

British PM says her country wants Turkish economy to flourish and would welcome visit from finance minister

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's row with the US has seen the lira plunge. AFP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's row with the US has seen the lira plunge. AFP

Britain wants Turkey’s economy to flourish and would welcome a visit from its finance minister, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said, after she spoke to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone on Monday.

The two leaders also discussed concerns about escalating military action by the Syrian regime in north-west Syria and the possibility of the further use of chemical weapons, according to a statement.

Meanwhile, Turkey warned on Monday that US trade sanctions against it could destabilise the Middle East and ultimately bolster terrorism and the refugee crisis, underscoring the regional impact of Ankara’s deepening rift with Washington.

Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak, who is Mr Erdogan’s son-in-law, used a visit to Paris to both take aim at the United States and highlight Ankara’s push for better ties with Europe, given the stand-off with Washington.

The rift with the US over an American evangelical Christian pastor detained in Turkey on terrorism charges has helped to accelerate a crisis in the Turkish lira, which is down about 40 per cent this year. President Donald Trump this month authorised a doubling of duties on aluminium and steel imported from Turkey.

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Investors are also worried about a US Treasury investigation into majority state-owned Turkish lender Halkbank, which faces a potentially hefty fine for allegations of Iran sanctions busting. The bank has said all of its transactions were legal.

“These steps taken with political motivation will not only impact the global financial system but also global trade and regional stability,” Mr Albayrak told a news conference following a meeting with his French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire.

“With the damage [the measures] will cause to regional stability, they will unfortunately contribute to chaotic problems that feed terrorism and also the refugee crisis.”

In another move unlikely to defuse tensions with the US, it was announced late on Monday that the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet next week for their third tripartite summit seeking an end to the Syrian conflict.

Mr Erdogan will travel to Iran to meet his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani on September 7, state-run TRT Haber television said.

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