Turkish president says U.S. actions amount to ‘economic attack’
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said Turkey would boycott U.S. electronic goods like the iPhone in retaliation for punitive sanctions from Washington, as the Turkish lira finally clawed back some of the ground lost in its standoff with Washington.
The dispute between the NATO allies—brought to a new intensity by Turkey’s holding of an American pastor for two years—has raised questions over the future of their partnership and fanned fears of a looming economic crisis in Turkey. “We will boycott U.S. electronic goods,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, again showing no sign of compromise in the dispute. “If [the United States] have the iPhone, there’s Samsung on the other side,” he said, referring to U.S. giant Apple’s iconic phone and the top South Korean brand.
“We [also] have our Venus and Vestel,” he said about homegrown Turkish electronics brands.
Shares in Vestel jumped seven percent on the Istanbul stock exchange after Erdogan’s remarks.
The White House did not respond directly to questions about Erdogan’s threat, or possible retaliatory measures. “The president has a great deal of frustration [about] the pastor not being released,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Erdogan has been repeatedly photographed with Apple products including the iPhone and iPad. He also made his now famous speech on the night of the July 2016 failed coup calling citizens out into the street through FaceTime, an iPhone app.
Some joked bitterly on social media that the plunge of the lira would make Apple products unaffordable for Turks in any case.
The lira’s plunge—ongoing for weeks—turned into a rout on Friday when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that Washington was doubling aluminum and steel tariffs for Turkey.
Turkish Airlines also announced on Twitter that it would join a campaign circulating on social media with a hashtag #ABDyeReklamVerme (don’t give ads to America).
“We, as the Turkish Airlines, stand by our state and our people. Necessary instructions on the issue have been issued to our agencies,” Yahya Ustun, spokesman for the country’s flag-carrier, wrote on Twitter.
Erdogan said Turkey was facing an “economic attack” and a “bigger, deeper operation.”
“They don’t hesitate to use the economy as a weapon,” he said. “What do you want to do? What do you want to achieve?” he added, referring to the U.S.
The lira posted gains on forex markets for the first time after days of losses, giving the currency much-needed respite. The lira was at 6.5 to the dollar, a gain of 5.0 percent on the day and 7.4 to the euro, well off the record lows of 7.24 to the dollar and 8.12 to the euro seen Monday.
The lira has lost about a fifth of its value against the greenback since Friday.
Turkey’s central bank on Monday announced it was ready to take “all necessary measures” to ensure financial stability, promising to provide banks with liquidity as needed. The move failed to impress financial markets, however, which want the authorities to hike interest rates sharply to combat the lira’s weakness and fight inflation.
“Significantly more than just official promises of action are needed to exit the current crisis,” said Andy Birch, principal economist at IHS Markit, calling for “a sharp central bank rate rise.”
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, will speak with about 1,000 foreign investors on Thursday via a teleconference, the private NTV broadcaster said.
Albayrak said on Tuesday that Turkey would press ahead with its action plan to prop up the lira against the dollar, calling for a trade that is conducted “in our own currency.”
“We will protect our Turkish lira, we will march with Turkish lira and we will see a stronger lira in the coming period.”
The current crisis was sparked by Ankara’s refusal to release pastor Andrew Brunson, who is currently under house detention on terror-related charges and espionage.
Brunson’s lawyer Cem Halavurt confirmed to AFP that he appealed for the release of his client once again on Tuesday, saying that: “The court should deliver its ruling in the next three days.”
U.S. embassy charge d’affaires Jeffrey Hovenier on Tuesday visited Brunson in the western city of Izmir. He said Washington expected the release of detained American citizens including Brunson “without delay” and “in a fair and transparent manner.”
Turkey’s ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic on Monday held talks with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in a meeting that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said was arranged by the White House.
The Turkish envoy conveyed the message that pressure and threats would only lead to “chaos” in relations, which could only improve after Washington abandons the language of “threats,” Cavusoglu said.