Turkey’s Erdoğan to Trump: You prefer a pastor to a strategic ally of yours in NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday responded to a recent statement from the US administration, saying it’s a shame for Washington to prefer an American pastor to Turkey, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

After imposing economic sanctions on two Turkish ministers in July for their role in the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, US President Donald 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.

“They are threatening us. You cannot bring [Turkish] people to their knees by using threatening language. We are quite familiar with justice and the law,” Erdoğan told a crowd in the Black Sea province of Ordu.

Addressing the US administration, Erdoğan said: “It’s a shame. You prefer a pastor to a strategic ally of yours in NATO.”

Erdoğan also threatened Trump and his administration on Saturday during a speech in Rize province and said that those who took a position against Turkey would pay a price both in the region and in their own domestic politics. He claimed that anybody who has been cursed by the Turkish people would eventually get into trouble one way or another.

“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! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” Trump tweeted on Friday.

“Unilateral actions against Turkey by the United States will undermine American interests and force Turkey to look for other friends and allies,” Erdoğan said in an opinion piece published by The New York Times on Saturday.

Erdoğan blamed Washington for “repeatedly and consistently failing to understand and respect the Turkish people’s concerns.” He said the US’s response to a controversial coup attempt in 2016 was far from satisfactory with American officials calling for “stability and peace and continuity within Turkey” and not showing any effort to extradite Fetullah Gülen.

Erdoğan also mentioned US support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria as another source of frustration. He alleged Washington used 5,000 trucks and 2,000 cargo planes to deliver weapons to the Syrian branch of an “armed group that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Turkish citizens since 1984 and that is designated a terrorist group by the United States.”

Erdoğan urged Washington to give up the misguided notion that bilateral relations could be “asymmetrical” and realize that Turkey had alternatives “before it is too late.”

“Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies,” he added.

Meanwhile, the leaders of two nationalist opposition parties in Turkey have extended their support to the Turkish government in the wake of the deterioration of the Turkish economy and the crashing of the Turkish lira to record lows against the US dollar.

The Turkish lira plunged to 6,82 against the US dollar on Friday as worries about Turkish President Erdoğan’s influence over monetary policy and worsening US relations snowballed into a market panic that also hit shares of European banks. The currency has fallen more than 35 percent this year after losing nearly a quarter of its value in 2017.

Speaking following a party meeting on Friday, İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener said: “You [the government] were alone when spoiling the economic table. I would like to announce that we are ready to act together for a solution. Today, we are with the government of the Turkish Republic on behalf of our country and the nation… We are ready to contribute to every positive step to be taken in proportion with our power.”

Erdoğan ally Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also instructed party officials to exchange any US dollars the party has in its accounts into Turkish lira in line with a call from Erdoğan to do so.

In a message from his Twitter account on Friday, Bahçeli commented that the fluctuations in foreign exchange rates were the result of a “foreign conspiracy.”

Moreover, a municipality in the western Turkish province of Uşak has announced it stopped running digital advertisements on Google, Facebook and other US-based social media platforms in response to the US sanctions on Turkey.

“Following the political crisis between our country and the US, we have cancelled all of our budget for Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube in our media planning,” the Uşak Municipality announced on Twitter on Saturday.

The statement was followed by a tweet by Uşak Mayor Nurullah Cahan, who vowed to “win against the enemies who surrounded all sides” of Turkey. “Stability will continue, Turkey will keep growing. We will not bow down to threats,” Cahan said.

Turkey has been facing a currency crisis since its relations with the US administration were dramatically strained over a court decision to put American pastor 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.

A Turkish delegation held meetings last week with US officials in Washington to find a solution, but they reportedly returned to Turkey empty-handed.

In a speech in the eastern town of Bayburt, Erdoğan said Turks “will respond to those who start an economic war against” the country, in an attempt to restore confidence in the Turkish lira after it plunged by more than 20 percent against the dollar on Friday. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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