Turkish relations spiraling amid tit-for-tat penalties over detained pastor

Umit Bektas  Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that his country will ban U.S. electronics after a diplomatic feud pushed it into a currency crisis.

It's not clear from the speech quite what this boycott could entail - whether it's Erdogan encouraging people to buy non-American devices or whether this will be a full-on ban on imports. He urged Turks to buy local or Korean mobile phones, instead of American iPhones.

Turkey's lira currency has been falling steadily for the past year because of a clearly stated view by Mr. Erdogan that interest rates are "evil", and because he has been controlling Turkey's central bank consistent with that belief.

The president's comments came after diplomats from both sides met Monday to calm tensions. Infuriated by the move, which Washington said was insufficient, Trump sanctioned two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on metal imports, adding to lira's slide.

The dispute between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 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.

The lira has lost more than 40% this year and crashed to an all-time low of 7.24 to the dollar on Monday, hit by worries over Erdogan's calls for lower borrowing costs and by worsening ties with the United States, a major North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally.

"There is a price we're paying for the period we're in", he said in a combative speech in Ankara.

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Although relations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Erdogan have stabilised since they spiralled into crisis when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in 2015, the Kremlin can offer little to ease Turkey's current economic woes.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng .HSI dropped more than 1 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC fell 0.1 percent.

However, severe changes in the value of the currency calmed Tuesday after news that USA national security adviser John Bolton had met with the Turkish ambassador to Washington Monday.

In essence, investors have lost faith in the current economic policies of the Turkish government, anxious that a continued weakening of the economy will cause Turkish borrowers to struggle to repay their foreign debts. Investors are also anxious about the effects of the dispute between two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. They also said Turkey should work to resolve the situation with the United States diplomatically while also improving relations with another major trading partner, the European Union. Amid calls to "burn" the dollars, the group headed to a bank branch where they converted the money, it said. Central banks try to ignore politics when making economic decisions.

Following Monday's meeting between Bolton and Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic, U.S. officials have given no indication that the United States has been prepared to give ground in the standoff between the two countries' leaders. The 50-year-old pastor is charged with terrorism links and spying. Mr Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty, denies the charges.

Brunson, from North Carolina, was arrested almost two years ago in Turkey and accused of aiding terrorist groups. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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