Turkey lira slumps to record lows over US sanctions in pastor case, Ankara vows to respond

Sanctions have been imposed on Turkey by US in the case of Pastor Brunson, who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges. (AP/Emre Tazegul)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Turkey lira slumps to record lows over US sanctions in pastor case, Ankara vows to respond

  • The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the dollar following Washington’s move
  • US hit Turkey’s justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor on trial for terror-related charges

ANKARA: The Turkish lira on Wednesday slumped to record lows of 5.0 against the dollar as the US hit Turkey’s justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor on trial for terror-related charges.
The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the dollar following Washington’s move in response to Turkey keeping Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest.
Before his move home last week, Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, had spent nearly two years in jail.
After reports that the US would sanction individuals over the case, the lira hit a record low of 5.01 against the dollar, before rallying slightly to 4.9.
It then hit 5.0 again after the official announcement from the White House.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Brunson was a “victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey” as she announced sanctions.
“At the president’s direction, the Department of the Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson,” she told journalists.
The sanctions freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.
US President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence had threatened Turkey with “large sanctions” last week if Brunson was not immediately released.
His lawyer’s appeal for his release was rejected this week.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail on charges of carrying out activities on behalf of two terror organizations — the group led by US-based Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The pastor denies the charges while US officials have publicly insisted that Brunson is innocent and should be freed.
Ankara said late on Wednesday night that Turkey would respond to Washington's "hostile" action to impose sanctions on its ministers. It also said that the sanctions would inflict "great damage" on efforts to restore Turkish-American relations.


Israel to improve coordination with Moscow over Syria after plane crash

Updated 55 sec ago
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Israel to improve coordination with Moscow over Syria after plane crash

JERUSALEM: Israel said on Thursday it would not halt strikes on Syria but would do more to "deconflict" them with Russian forces, after Moscow accused it of "irresponsible and unfriendly actions" that led to Syrian ground fire mistakenly downing a Russian plane.
Fifteen Russian crew were killed when the IL-20 surveillance plane crashed near Latakia in northern Syria on Monday. Russia has said Syria shot the plane down shortly after Israeli jets hit the area, and accused Israel of creating the dangerous conditions by failing to give sufficient advance notice.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin initially described the downing as "tragic chance", Moscow has made its anger clear.
"Moscow views as irresponsible and unfriendly actions of Israeli Air Force, which exposed Russian Il-20 aircraft to danger and led to death of 15 servicemen," the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv said on Twitter in English, adding that Russia would "take all necessary measures to eliminate threat to life and security of our military fighting against terrorism".
Israel has struck Syria scores of times during its seven-year civil war to prevent what it says are transfers of weapons to Hezbollah fighters and other Iranian allies. Russia has largely overlooked the sorties, which the Israelis say pose no direct threat to Moscow's ally, President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel dispatched its air force chief to brief Moscow about the incident on Thursday. Expressing regret at the loss of life, Israel denied wrongdoing and blamed what it called wanton Syrian anti-aircraft fire after its jets had withdrawn back over the border.
Speaking to Army Radio, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made clear that Israel would not halt attacks in Syria.
"We will do whatever is necessary to safeguard the security of Israel's citizens ... and we will not hold these discussions over the airwaves," he said.
But when pressed during the interview, Lieberman avoided asserting Israeli "freedom of action" over Syria, a term he has used in the past.
Naftali Bennett, another member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, said "deconfliction mechanisms" would be improved, referring to a Russian-Israeli hotline designed to avoid inadvertent clashes with forces Moscow sent to Syria as part of a military intervention mounted in 2015.
"We will of course strengthen these mechanisms. We will do everything so as not to harm anyone we do not intend to, God forbid," Bennett told Army Radio in a separate interview.
Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran Israeli military commentator, predicted a more patient air force approach in future strikes.
"It is possible that, next time, they will say, 'Okay let's wait until the (Russian) plane goes back to its base, and then we will carry out the attack,'" Ben-Yishai told Ynet TV.
Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas, who like their patron Iran have been helping Assad militarily in Syria, said Israeli strikes there would not prevent them getting advanced weaponry.
"No matter what you do to cut the route, the matter is over and the resistance possesses precision and non-precision rockets and weapons capabilities," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech.