ISTANBUL, Aug 11, (Agencies): President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back Saturday at US “threats” over a detained American pastor which has escalated tensions between the two NATO allies and piled pressure on the Turkish currency.
“It is wrong to dare bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pastor,” Erdogan told a rally in the Black Sea town of Unye.
“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.”
US President Donald Trump said Friday he had doubled steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey, adding to pressure its troubled economy amid a diplomatic row with Washington.
The lira tumbled 16 percent against the dollar on Friday.
Turkey remains at loggerheads with the United States in one of the worst spats in years over the nearly two-year detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson and a host of other issues.
But Erdogan urged Turks not to be panicked by the currency crisis, saying: “If they have the dollar, we have Allah.”
He also advised them 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.
Brunson’s arrest in October 2016 soured already deeply-strained relations with Washington.
Erdogan said Turkey act in accordance with the law, saying: “We have not made concessions on justice so far, and we will never make any.”
And he brushed off the issue of tariffs.
“They say we will not give this or that. Don’t give. What we have is enough for us.”
The White House has said the newly-imposed sanctions would take effect from Aug 13.
An important emerging market, Turkey borders Iran, Iraq and Syria and has been mostly pro-Western for decades. Financial upheaval risks further destabilizing an already volatile region.
Erdogan has cast the recent slide in the lira as a war and without naming countries said supporters of a failed military coup two years ago, which Ankara says was organized by a US-based Muslim cleric, were attacking Turkey in new ways since his re-election two months ago.
In an opionion piece in the New York Times, he warned the US that Ankara had other alternatives as allies.
“Before it is too late, 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,” Erdogan said.
Turkey, home to the Incirlik air base which is used by US forces in the Middle East, has been a NATO member since the 1950s. It is host to a critical part of the Western alliance’s missile defence system again Iran.
In a separate opinion piece in the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah, Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey’s efforts to solve the crisis with diplomatic methods have been dismissed by the Trump administration, warning that Washington might completely lose Ankara as an ally.
“The US runs the risk of losing Turkey as a whole. The entire Turkish public is against US policies that disregard Turkey’s legitimate security demands. Threats, sanctions and bullying against Turkey will not work,” he said.