Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday said the US has shot Turkey in the foot with its recent sanction decisions, underlining that Ankara would not give in to the pressure and is “ready to fight,” the Cumhuriyet daily reported.
“You [US President Donald Trump] cannot say ‘I did it’ and that’s it. You may be a president. You cannot wake up in the morning and say I put such and such an amount of tax on steel and aluminum. You are a strategic partner on the one hand, and you shot us in the foot on the other,” Erdoğan said, speaking to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara.
“Can such a thing be accepted? We can’t possibly accept it,” Erdoğan added, challenging US sanctions.
President Erdoğan also accused “economic terrorists” of plotting to harm Turkey by spreading false reports and said they would face the full force of the law, as authorities launched investigations of those suspected of involvement.
“There are economic terrorists on social media,” Erdoğan told a gathering of Turkish ambassadors at the presidential palace in Ankara, adding that the judiciary and financial authorities were taking action in response. “They are truly a network of treason,” he added. “We will not give them the time of day… We will make those spreading speculations pay the necessary price,” he said.
After imposing economic sanctions on two Turkish ministers on Aug. 1 for their role in the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, President Trump on Aug. 10 ramped up sanctions on Turkey by doubling US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
As tension between Ankara and Washington continues, the Turkish lira, which on Friday tumbled by as much as 18 percent at one point, its biggest daily drop since 2001, plunged to a new record low in Monday’s early Asia Pacific trade, with the total loss in value exceeding 45 percent this year.
Claiming that the fall of the Turkish lira has no basis in economic fact, Erdoğan said that “Our economy has been under siege. This started with the Gezi [park protests in 2013] resistance. We prevented it with our nation by standing back to back.”
“We all agree that the developments concerning the currency are the product of a common mind,” added Erdoğan. “You have to fight to reach peace. We are ready for war,” said Turkish president and also criticized social media messages about the currency crisis. “There is terrorism of the economy on social media. The judiciary does what is needed. This is treason. We will destroy their lair,” said Erdoğan.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry on Monday said it was taking necessary legal measures for 346 social media posts regarding the dollar exchange rate that create a negative perception of the economy.
The İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office also stated that it had launched investigations into people who “threaten economic security” by sharing “manipulative” information about the plunge of the Turkish lira and related stories that constitute “economic attacks” against Turkey on social media.
The US can’t achieve results with sanctions, Turkish FM says
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that the US has to learn that it can’t achieve results with sanctions, threats and pressure on Turkey by reiterating that Ankara is ready to find a solution to the ongoing row through dialogue and diplomacy.
“It’s impossible for us to accept these sanctions and threats. Our expectation from the US is to remain loyal to our traditional friendship and our NATO alliance,” Çavuşoğlu said in an address to Turkish ambassadors during an annual conference in Ankara on Monday.
“Turkey is one of the most investible countries despite all campaigns against it,” Çavuşoğlu claimed in response to the country’s currency crisis. “The US is in confusion. ‘Should we resolve this problem with Turkey, or should we maintain it until the November elections?’” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to mid-term congressional elections.
The minister stressed that the US should learn that they will not achieve any results with sanctions while calling for more dialogue and diplomacy. “Turkey has done enough to repair ties,” he said, underlining that the culture of compromise requires both sides’ steps for resolving questions.
Çavuşoğlu also recalled that the US has not taken any concrete step on Turkey’s extradition request for Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of orchestrating a July 2016 coup attempt by the Turkish government, although Gülen strongly denies any involvement, and has acted contrary to the alliance regarding the fundamental security issues of Turkey.
Merkel says Germany would like to see a prosperous Turkey
Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country wants to see economic prosperity in Turkey and that Ankara should ensure the independence of its central bank, Reuters reported.
“No one has an interest in an economic destabilization in Turkey. But everything must be done to ensure an independent central bank,” Merkel said during a news conference in Berlin when asked about the economic situation in Turkey.
“Germany would like to see an economically prosperous Turkey. This is in our interest,” Merkel added.
Kremlin: Russia keen on trading with Turkey in national currencies
Moreover, Russian news agency Sputnik reported on Monday by citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov that Russia hopes to use national currencies in trade with Turkey, but the issue needs to be carefully worked out.
“The issue of using national currencies in bilateral trade is a topic that has been raised by the Russian side for a long time and consistently at various levels, including at the top level. President [Vladimir] Putin has repeatedly spoken about this possibility and moreover, about its practicability,” Peskov told reporters when answering a question whether the switch to the national currency in trade with Turkey was beneficial for Russia.
“Of course, this is subject to scrupulous work, scrupulous calculations, but this is what we are striving for in our bilateral trade and economic relations, and what has been repeatedly mentioned at bilateral Russian-Turkish talks.”
On Saturday Turkish President Erdogan said Ankara was preparing to switch to national currency use with its largest trading partners, such as China, Russia, and Iran, and was also ready for such a move in the trade with the European Union.
The spokesman said the financial and economic situation in Turkey was not yet affecting implementation of joint projects with Russia. “I don’t know that this situation will somehow affect the development of projects. Everything is proceeding as usual,” Peskov told reporters. He said speculation about Russia’s possible financial assistance to Turkey were inappropriate.
Pro-gov’t daily accuses Qatar of betraying Turkey in currency crisis
As the Turkish government seeks the support of Gulf countries in the wake of a currency crisis due to US economic sanctions, the pro-government Takvim daily has accused Qatar of betraying Ankara by keeping silent.
“While many countries expressed their support for Turkey against the US sanctions, Qatar, which was supported by Turkey in its difficult times, has betrayed Turkey by remaining silent,” Takvim said under the headline “Qatar’s big betrayal of Turkey.”
The story came after Kuwait’s Al Jarida newspaper reported that Minister Albayrak visited Kuwait and was expected to visit other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council seeking investment.
Recalling that Turkey vowed to stand by Qatar when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided to impose sanctions on Doha in June 2017, Takvim said: “While many countries abandoned it, Turkey supported Qatar, not recognizing the sanctions imposed and standing beside the Qatari government and people with humanitarian and political support. Qatar’s decision to remain silent in the face of the US’s economic war targeting Turkey has created disappointment.”
The Takvim daily is a member of the Turkuvaz Media Group, which is led by Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Minister Albayrak.
Could Turkey find solidarity in the Arab world?
The collapse of the lira and the diplomatic row with the United States has sent Recep Tayyip Erdogan scrambling for help from his allies, including in the Arab world. However, experts say he may find support lacking.
Turkey has only limited economic relations with the Arab world and its prospects for trade in the region are also limited, as a result, explained Mustafa Ellabad, director of the Al-Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “The Turkish-Arab partnership is overrated,” he told the Deutsche Welle (DW). “Turkey exports mainly basic, unprocessed goods to the Arab world.”
“Turkey’s closest ally in the region is Qatar. The two states’ already strong political ties — Turkey stations troops in Qatar, for example — were further deepened last year when Ankara backed Doha after it was diplomatically isolated by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. Turkey stepped in and provided Qatar with essential goods. However, to what extent Qatar, embroiled in its own diplomatic crisis, can now support Turkey remains to be seen,” wrote the DW.
Although Ankara continues to maintain relations with other Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, they are very limited, said Ellabad. “If we compare trade relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, they are disproportionate to those which the Saudi kingdom maintains with the EU states,” he said.
Unfortunately for Erdogan, he may have to look elsewhere for help in solving his country’s current economic woes. He will find “no support for Turkey from the Arab states in this crisis,” Ellabad said.
Meanwhile, President Erdoğan on Monday spoke over the phone with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, according to presidential sources. The two leaders discussed bilateral relations and regional issues, said sources. They also highlighted the importance of further improving bilateral ties in all areas, the source added.
Albayrak has also reportedly conducted a swift visit to Kuwait to seek financial assistance amid Turkey’s mounting currency crisis but has not secured it, according to a report by online news outlet Ahval.
The report said that Albayrak flew into Kuwait on Sunday evening, where he held a 40-minute meeting at the airport with the Kuwaiti finance minister, Nayef Al-Hajraf, and central bank governor, Mohammad Y. Al-Hashel, to request support during Turkey’s most severe currency crisis in decades.
The Turkish finance minister had reportedly been seeking a support package worth $1,8 billion from the Kuwaiti Finance Ministry. However, the Kuwaiti officials gave no promises on the matter, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous due to the private nature of the talks.
İşbank’s CEO: Ordinary Turks have nothing to do with foreign currency
On Monday, the general manager of Turkey’s İşbank, the largest bank in the country, said ordinary Turks who do not earn their income in US dollars or euros would have nothing to do with those currencies.
The remarks of İşbank General Manager Adnan Bali came during a program on NTV in the wake of a record fall of the Turkish lira, 7.24 to the US dollar on Monday.
“Nobody should swim in unknown waters. A person who does not have earnings or debt in dollars or euros would have nothing to do with foreign currency. I haven’t bought even one dollar for savings purposes. Today and yesterday, too. The reason is this: I earn and spend Turkish lira. My advice is: What would Aunt Ayşe [a reference to the everyday Turk] have to do with foreign currency?” said the general manager.
According to Bali, the current situation in Turkish markets cannot be explained in financial terms, and there are attacks on the Turkish economy from abroad.
The Turkish currency has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, largely over worries about President Erdoğan’s influence over the economy, his repeated calls for lower interest rates and worsening ties with the United States.
On Friday that relentless slide turned into a crash: The lira dropped as much as 18 percent, hitting the US and European stocks as investors took fright over banks’ exposure to Turkey.
The fresh lira collapse on Sunday night hit Asian shares, weakened South Africa’s rand and drove demand in global markets for safe currencies including the dollar, Swiss franc, and yen. Shares in Europe’s major banks also lost ground. (SCF with turkishminute.com)