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.


Lebanese MP: Sweida hostages were freed by Russia

The regime wanted to use what happened to blackmail Syrian Druze into returning to the military service, says the MP. (AFP/SANA)
Updated 23 min 54 sec ago
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Lebanese MP: Sweida hostages were freed by Russia

  • The Russians were responsible for the monitoring, reconnaissance, timing and execution of the operation
  • Daesh had kidnapped 36 women and children from the Syrian southern province of Sweida during an attack that killed more than 250 people

BEIRUT: Lebanese MP and member of the Democratic Gathering party Wael Abou Faour told Arab News that “the liberation of the women abducted by Daesh on Nov. 8 was accomplished by Russian special forces. They were responsible for the monitoring, reconnaissance, timing and execution of the operation. The Syrian army was not the one to do so as the regime had claimed. However, some Syrian elements that directly follow the Russian leadership took part in the operation.”

“What happened was a military liberation operation. No deal was made with the Syrian regime or the abductors,” he added.
Faour had accompanied the head of the Democratic Gathering party, Taymour Jumblatt, on a trip to Moscow where they met with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in the presence of the official in charge of the issues of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine Andrei Banov. “The Russians informed us that the hostages will be released very soon at 10 a.m. Moscow time, while the Syrian announcement of their liberation came at 3 in the afternoon,” he noted.
Daesh had kidnapped 36 women and children from the Syrian southern province of Sweida during an attack that killed more than 250 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The Syrian regime was responsible for the kidnapping in the first place, so it is not normal for it to be behind the liberation. The regime wanted to use what happened to blackmail Syrian Druze into returning to the military service. There are hundred of thousands of Druze in Syria and 53,000 of them refused to join the military.”
“Since the beginning of the kidnapping crisis, the Russian leadership informed us that it is working directly on the ground and running the negotiations. Through announcing its responsibility for the liberation of the hostages, the Syrian regime is trying to look as if it is protecting the Druze and acquit itself from letting Daesh into the Druze areas,” Faour pointed out.
“The situation in Sweida is relatively acceptable. Some arrangements are being made under the direct guidance of the Russian leadership. Taymour Jumblatt is taking part in this matter in a way that preserves the security of Sweida residents and their relations with the rest of the Syrian people and prevents their usage in any future conspiracies carried out by the regime.
“These recent events showed that Taymour Jumblatt’s confidence in the Russians was in place especially after the liberation operation. Further discussions about future arrangements related to the Druze’s situation in Syria are under way. A suggestion proposed that the Druze wanted for military service would join the fifth legion led directly by Russia, which is receiving positive feedback among Druze,” he said.
“The relation between the Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Jumblatt and the Russian Federation is historic. Russians preserve their relations with their historic allies and remember the great role of Kamal Jumblatt, who was awarded with the Order of Lenin among very few figures in the world. They also cherish the common friendship and struggle they share with Walid Jumblatt and want to consolidate the relation with his son Taymour.
“The relation with Russia does not lead to a relation with President Bashar Assad. That relation will only come back to life when there is a democratic regime in Syria,” Faour stressed.
“Russia is working on a gradual political solution in Syria. There is no turning away from the constitutional committee. There are discussions related to the representatives of the civil society that constitute a third of the committee, which balances it in some way.
“The meeting held with Russian officials also discussed Lebanese issues. Moscow showed a great interest in the internal situation and it fears that the current developments, international disputes in particular, may destabilize its stability.
“They are very concerned with the forming of the Lebanese government headed by Saad Hariri, and Bogdanov expressed Russia’s readiness to take any initiative to help Lebanon overcome the government crisis,” he added.