Turkey’s Erdoğan defies US sanctions: We have seen your game, and we challenge you

“I am declaring here and now: We have seen your game, and we challenge you,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday in response to the plunge of the Turkish Lira following the imposition of economic sanctions on Turkey by the US administration over the continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, claiming that the currently ongoing currency crisis had no basis in economic fact but was an attack by the US on Turkey.

Erdoğan was in Trabzon to attend a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Following the Turkish lira’s recent free fall, Erdoğan has employed a new rhetoric that accuses the US of orchestrating an “economic attack” against his country, claiming, “They couldn’t manage [to overthrow my government] with a coup attempt, now they’re trying it with money.”

Turkey survived a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. “There is no reasonable economic explanation for the depreciation of the Turkish lira from 2,8 to the US dollar before July 15 [2016] to more than 6 today. Is Turkey facing a financial crisis like Asian markets had in the 1990s? No. Is it a mortgage crisis like in the US and the UK? No,” said Erdoğan.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman recently wrote a column in The New York Times likening the Turkey’s currency crisis to the Asian market crisis in the 1990s.

Many other prominent economists argued that the crisis was not a surprise since the government’s financial policies and authoritarian rule had terrified global investors by creating instability.

“[The US] has been trying to sacrifice a great country with an 81-million-strong population over a pastor who is affiliated with terrorist groups,” Erdoğan said, referring to pastor Brunson, who has been incarcerated in Turkey for almost two years and has become the focus of the strained relationship between the US and Turkey.

“We respond to those who launch an economic war against our country by heading to new markets, new partners,” he said.

According a recent report in the Asia Times, Turkey has been trying to partner with China, quoting a Turkish economist who appeared on Chinese television and said: “Stability for the Turkish lira will come from cooperation with valuable countries like China. It’s impossible for the central bank to do something alone; resources are needed.” “China has the opportunity to undertake the Sinification of Turkey at low cost,” the report said.

Erdoğan: Businessmen who buy foreign currency to face plans B, C

Erdoğan on Sunday also told Turkish businessmen not to buy foreign currency, saying otherwise he would put “plans B and C” into practice, the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reported.

“Do not rush to banks to buy foreign currency. Do not think this way: It [the Turkish economy] is over, it is bankrupted so we should take steps to protect ourselves. If you resort to this method, you will make a mistake. It is not only our duty to keep this nation alive, but also the duty of merchants and industrialists. Otherwise, I will have to put plans B and C into practice. Better that everybody understands it,” Erdoğan said, speaking to businessmen in Trabzon province.

Erdoğan did not elaborate on the details of plans B and C. The Turkish government has seized over eight holdings and 1,020 companies since the coup bid on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish president on Friday called on Turks to exchange dollars, euros and gold for Turkish lira, which plunged by more than 20 percent against the dollar.

Turkey has been facing a currency crisis since its relations with the US administration were dramatically strained over a court decision to put Brunson under house arrest after almost two years in pretrial detention rather than release him as demanded by the US administration.

Following the court ruling US President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed. After imposing economic sanctions on two Turkish ministers on Aug. 1 for their role in the detention of Brunson, President Trump on Friday ramped up his sanctions on Turkey by doubling US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

The lira has dropped by almost 50 percent against the dollar in the past 12 months. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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