Detained Pastor Brunson causing Turkey-U.S. tension files fresh appeal

Gladys Abbott
August 15, 2018

The emir of wealthy Qatar flew to Turkey on Wednesday to meet close ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an apparent show of support as Ankara grapples with a currency crisis.

The currency TRYTOM=D3 has lost almost 40 percent against the dollar this year, driven by worries over President Tayyip Erdogan's growing influence on the economy and his repeated calls for lower interest rates despite high inflation.

Turkey's weakened currency, the lira, plunged by more than 20% in response to those United States sanctions.

Ibrahim Kalin, the special advisor and spokesperson of Erdogan, tweeted that 'Turkish-Qatari relations are based on solid foundations of true friendship and solidarity'.

A state of frustration is now permeating Turkish society due to the "silence of Qatar" regarding the crisis that hit Turkey's economy as a result of U.S. sanctions against Ankara, Turkish daily newspaper Takvim reported.

Her remarks come as US President Donald Trump's punitive measures against Turkey have pushed its lira into freefall and sent shudders through its financial markets.

Turkey's currency, the lira, bounced back sharply on Wednesday morning, falling back below six per dollar.

The lira's initial slide came amid rising tensions between the U.S. and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over trade.

Explaining the new tariffs, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said the rises were ordered "within the framework of reciprocity in retaliation for the conscious attacks on our economy by the U.S. administration". "They are killing offshore lira liquidity to stop foreigners shorting the lira", he said.

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The new decree amends a presidential decree on July 11.

Tariffs on American cars were doubled to 120 percent while the tariff on alcoholic drinks rose to 140 percent.

The finance minister will seek to reassure worldwide investors on Thursday in a conference call for which a ministry official said some far 3,000 people had signed up.

Erdogan also renewed a call for Turks to convert their dollars into the lira, to help strengthen the currency. Turkey's exports to the United States, its fifth-largest export market, were $8.7 billion.

Brunson, who has lived for two decades in Turkey, was arrested in 2016 and charged with having terrorist connections.

Brunson is now on trial and held on house arrest, with few indications that Turkish officials intend to comply with the demands - despite US sanctions that were leveled against them two weeks ago.

It's unclear how such a boycott would work, and the State Department said it couldn't confirm "that that is actually going to happen", according to spokesperson Heather Nauert.

Pastor Andrew Brunson's lawyer renewed an appeal on Tuesday for Brunson's release from house arrest and for his travel ban to be lifted.

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