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Erdogan says Turkey to boycott US electronic goods

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said Turkey would boycott US electronic goods like the iPhone in retaliation for punitive sanctions from Washington, as the Turkish lira finally clawed back some ground after going into a tailspin over the tensions. 

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 US 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 US 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 zoomed up seven percent on the Istanbul stock exchange after Erdogan’s remarks.

– ‘Economic attack’ –

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 — which had been ongoing for weeks — was turned into a rout on Friday when US President Donald Trump tweeted that Washington was doubling aluminium 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 US.

– ‘Foreign investor talks’

Erdogan admitted the Turkish economy had problems — including a widening current account deficit and inflation of almost 16 percent but added: “Thanks to God, our economy is functioning like clockwork.”

But 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 6.49 to the dollar, a gain of 4.5 percent on the day and 7.50 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 after the collapse of the lira, promising to provide banks with liquidity.

However the move failed to impress financial markets, which want to see a massive rate hike of as much as 1,000 basis points by Turkey 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, son-in-law of Erdogan, will speak with about 1,000 foreign investors on Thursday via a teleconference, the private NTV broadcaster said.

– New Brunson appeal –

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 a French wire service 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.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US embassy charge d’affaires was due to visit Brunson on Tuesday, and also adding that talks were under way to come out of the crisis.

Turkey’s ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic on Monday held talks with US National Security Advisor John Bolton in a meeting what Cavusoglu said was arranged by the White House.

The Turkish envoy conveyed the message the pressure and threats would only lead to a “chaos” in relations which could only improve after Washington abandons the language of “threats”, Cavusoglu said.

 

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