Trump attacks Turkey, vows to pay "nothing" for US pastor's release

Sean Reid
August 17, 2018

Turkey's currency remains steady against the dollar despite an apparent threat of possible new sanctions by U.S. President Donald Trump.

If the Turkish government does not eventually agree to US demands and release him early, Brunson could spend 35 years in prison.

The currency plunged to a record low of 7.24 to the dollar at the start of the week as a worsening of relations between Turkey and the United States added to losses driven by concerns over President Tayyip Erdogan's influence over monetary policy.

Erdoğan's claim that the United States is using "the economy as a weapon" is a response to sanctions imposed on high-ranking Turkish justice officials this month in response to the continued detention of Pastor Brunson.

Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet late Thursday: "We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!"

Qatar poured funds into the country the same day Turkey doubled tariffs on some USA imports, such as cars, alcohol and tobacco, one day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a boycott of iPhones.

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.

He later tweeted that the Protestant clergyman, who has been detained since 2016 when he was arrested in a government crackdown following a failed coup bid, was a "great patriot" being held "hostage".

"They have not proven to be a good friend", Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested during a cabinet meeting on Thursday that the next spiral of tit-for-tat sanctions was coming soon, deepening a spat that has rattled financial markets, if Andrew Brunson is not released by Turkey.

A court refused to release Mr Brunson, and the the government in Ankara increased tariffs on imports from the USA of cars, alcoholic drinks and leaf tobacco - and the lira recovered slightly.

The Turkish banking watchdog has taken steps to stabilise the currency, limiting futures transactions for offshore investors and lowering limits on swap transactions.

Mr Albayrak, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son-in-law, said the country's banks were healthy and strong and the nation would not be turning to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

"I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!"

He also recalled that Pakistan's next prime minister Imran Khan supported Turkey in the recent crisis with the U.S.

The US-Turkish economic war has led to unforgiving retaliations from both ends.

China's Foreign Ministry said Turkey can "overcome" the economic problems.

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