US Threatens More Sanctions, Keeping Alive Turkish Crisis

By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey and the United States exchanged new threats of sanctions Friday, keeping alive a diplomatic and financial crisis that is threatening the economic stability of the NATO country.

A view of Istanbul, on Aug. 16, 2018. Turkey’s finance chief tried to reassure thousands of international investors on a conference call Thursday, in which he pledged to fix the economic troubles that have seen the country spiral into a currency crisis.The national currency recovered somewhat from record lows hit earlier this week. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey’s lira fell once again after the trade minister, Ruhsar Pekcan, said Friday that her government would respond to any new trade duties, which U.S. President Donald Trump threatened in an overnight tweet.

Trump is taking issue with the continued detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who faces 35 years in prison on charges of espionage and terror-related charges.

Dashing hopes for a quick solution to the dispute, a Turkish court on Friday rejected an appeal for the pastor’s release from house detention. Upholding a lower court’s decision earlier this week, it also ruled against lifting a travel ban imposed on Brunson.

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!”

He also urged Brunson to serve as a “great patriot hostage” while he is jailed and criticized Turkey for “holding our wonderful Christian Pastor.”

U.S. Treasury chief Steve Mnuchin earlier said the U.S. could put more sanctions on Turkey.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Turkey retaliated with some $533 million of tariffs on some U.S. imports — including cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks — and said it would boycott U.S. electronic goods.

“We have responded to (U.S. sanctions) in accordance to World Trade Organization rules and will continue to do so,” Pekcan told reporters on Friday.

Turkey’s currency, which had recovered from record losses against the dollar earlier in the week, was down almost 5 percent against the dollar on Friday, at 6.09.

Turkey’s finance chief tried to reassure thousands of international investors on a conference call Thursday, in which he pledged to fix the economic troubles. He ruled out any move to limit money flows — which is a possibility that worries investors — or any assistance from the International Monetary Fund.

Investors are concerned that Turkey’s has amassed high levels of foreign debt to fuel growth in recent years. And as the currency drops, that debt becomes so much more expensive to repay, leading to potential bankruptcies.

Also worrying investors has been President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates to support the currency, as experts say it should. Erdogan has tightened his grip since consolidating power after general elections this year.

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