Turkey lashes US over sanctions with threat of ‘new friends’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in his Black Sea hometown of Rize on Saturday.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in his Black Sea hometown of Rize on Saturday.

Photo: AP

Erdogan blamed his country’s economic downturn on the US and other nations that he claims are waging “war” against his country.

Speaking in the north-eastern province of Rize, Erdogan said that dollars, euros and gold were now “the bullets, cannonballs and missiles of the economic war being waged against our country”.

Erdogan promised supporters that Turkey was taking the necessary precautions to protect its economy but added “the most important thing is breaking the hands firing these weapons”.

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

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, in July. He is under house arrest.

Andrew Craig Brunson, an evangelical pastor from Black Mountain, North Carolina, arrives at his house in Izmir, Turkey, in July. He is under house arrest.

Photo: AP

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.

Erdogan framed Turkey’s crisis as a “national battle” against economic enemies including the US at a rally in the Black Sea town of Ünye on Saturday.

“If they have their dollar, we have the people, we have Allah,” he said, appealing to his religious Muslim base. His supporters in the crowd ripped up one dollar notes in protest.

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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,” 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.”

Erdogan vowed there would be no easing of the law in 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 Trump came into office, including Washington’s support of Kurdish groups in neighbouring Syria and its refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, the cleric Erdogan claims is behind the botched attempt to unseat him.

The Trump administration has in recent months imposed sanctions against Turkey, Iran and Russia, creating what has been dubbed an “axis of the sanctioned”.  Erdogan said Turkey would be looking to form alternative economic alliances with “Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries”.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, accused Washington of an “addiction to sanctions and bullying”. Trump’s “jubilation in inflicting economic hardship on its Nato ally Turkey is shameful,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions (and) bullying or entire world will unite – beyond verbal condemnations – to force it to. We’ve stood with neighbours before, and will again now,” he warned.

Telegraph, London, AAP

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