Tuesday 22 October 2019

Erdogan tells US: Turkey will look for 'new friends'

President Donald Trump. Photo: AP
President Donald Trump. Photo: AP

Josie Ensor

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey will "seek new friends" after the US "upset and annoyed" Ankara with sanctions which triggered a major currency crisis.

Turkey's president told counterpart Donald Trump to respect the country's sovereignty "before it is too late", plunging relations between the Nato allies to their lowest in decades.

Writing in the New York Times - the broadsheet much loathed by the US president - Mr Erdogan said: "Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives.

"Failure to reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect will require us to start looking for new friends and allies."

The Turkish lira tumbled more than 16 per cent last Friday to a record low against the dollar after Washington imposed sanctions as well as steel and aluminium tariffs to compel Ankara to turn over a jailed American pastor.

Mr Trump announced the punitive doubling of tariffs, which were imposed in protest at the detention of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested on terrorism charges after the attempted coup against Mr Erdogan in 2016, saying: "Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!"

The US is the biggest destination for Turkish steel exports with 11 per cent of the Turkish export volume.

The country has weathered several tough economic crises over the decades, but has traditionally always had Washington's staunch support.

Mr Erdogan framed Turkey's crisis as a "national battle" against economic enemies, including the US. "If they have their dollar, we have the people, we have Allah," he told a rally in the Black Sea town of Unye yesterday, appealing to his Muslim base. His supporters in the crowd ripped up dollar notes in protest.

The president, who has consolidated unprecedented power through a series of referendums, advised Turks to show solidarity by converting any stashed-away gold or foreign currency to Turkish lira in a bid to wage a "war of independence" against America.

"It is wrong to dare bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pastor," Mr Erdogan said.

"I am calling on those in America again. Shame on you, shame on you. You are exchanging your strategic partner in Nato for a priest."

Mr Erdogan vowed there would be no easing of the law in Mr Brunson's case. "We have not made concessions on justice so far, and we will never make any," he said.

Turkey and the US have disagreed on a number of issues since Mr Trump came into office, including Washington's support of Kurdish groups in neighbouring Syria and its refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the cleric Mr Erdogan claims was behind the botched attempt to unseat him.

The Trump administration has gone on a sanctions frenzy in recent months, imposing them against Turkey, Iran and Russia, creating what experts have dubbed an "axis of the sanctioned".

Mr Erdogan said Turkey would be looking to form alternative economic alliances with "Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries".

Meanwhile, Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad has accused Washington of having an "addiction to sanctions and bullying".

Mr Trump's "jubilation in inflicting economic hardship on its Nato ally Turkey is shameful", he wrote on Twitter.

"The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions [and] bullying or the entire world will unite - beyond verbal condemnations - to force it to. We've stood with neighbours before, and will again now."

© Telegraph


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