Turkey ready to respond if US imposes more sanctions

After more threats from Washington, Ankara remains defiant in refusing to release imprisoned pastor at the centre of row, despite damage to economy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 9:21pm

Turkey on Friday threatened to respond in kind if Washington imposed more sanctions over the detention of an American pastor which has sparked a diplomatic stand-off and battered the Turkish currency.

As Ankara sought to reassure markets after the lira went into a tailspin over the row, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned of more sanctions until Andrew Brunson was released.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said he had doubled the tariffs on aluminium and steel from Turkey, prompting Ankara to sharply increase tariffs on several US products.

On Friday, Turkey’s Trade Minister Ruhsar Pekcan said to expect more of the same.

“We’ve already responded based on the World Trade Organisation rules and will continue to do so,” Anadolu news agency quoted him as saying.

The nearly two-year detention of Brunson, who is being held on terror charges, has soured relations between the two Nato allies and sent the lira tumbling.

Amidst the currency’s sharp decline, the S&P and Moody’s ratings agencies each downgraded Turkey’s debt a notch, and S&P projected the country would face a recession next year.

On Thursday, Trump said Turkey had “taken advantage of the United States for many years” and referred to Brunson as a “great patriot” who was being held “hostage”.

“We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man but we are cutting back on Turkey!” he tweeted.

US sanctions and the declining lira created panic in the markets but on the streets, many Turks appeared to support the government’s retaliatory measures.

Muharrem Bozkurt was upbeat despite the lira crisis: “As we are a country where patriotic sentiments are high, no matter how much the dollar increases, we will get over this.”

Can Buyuker, who works in a money exchange in Istanbul, said Trump and Erdogan were playing up to nationalist voters: “Both men are seeking to increase their votes by creating an enemy. That’s politics.”

The latest US announcement came after Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak tried to soothe the markets during an unprecedented conference call with hundreds of foreign investors, insisting Turkey would emerge “stronger” from the currency crisis and would not need an IMF bailout.