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.


US sees Palestinian state on most of West Bank, some of East Jerusalem — Israeli TV

Updated 17 January 2019
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US sees Palestinian state on most of West Bank, some of East Jerusalem — Israeli TV

JERUSALEM: Israeli television said on Wednesday that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan would propose a Palestinian state on as much as 90 percent of the occupied West Bank, with a capital in East Jerusalem — but not including its holy sites.
The White House, which has kept details of the plan under wraps and said its release could still be months away, dismissed the report by Israel’s Reshet 13 TV as inaccurate speculation.
Citing what it said was a source briefed by the Americans, the television report said the plan would entail Israel annexing Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank while isolated settlements would either be evacuated or their construction halted.
Trump wants the proposed Israeli moves to be supplemented by territorial swaps with the Palestinians, and for East Jerusalem’s walled Old City — site of major Jewish, Muslim and Christian shrines — to be under Israeli sovereignty but with the joint management of the Palestinians and Jordan, the report said.
It said “most Arab neighborhoods” in East Jerusalem would be under Palestinian sovereignty as a future capital.
Israel calls all of Jerusalem its “eternal and undivided capital,” a status not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City, as capital of a future state.
The report made no mention of the fate of Palestinian refugees, another core dispute in the decades-old conflict, or of how the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of Hamas Islamists opposed to peace with Israel, might fit into the plan.
Israeli and Palestinian officials did not immediately respond to the Reshet 13 report.
Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, a main architect of the plan along with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, said in a message on Twitter the report “is not accurate.” He did not specify, however, what in the report was incorrect.
“Speculation about the content of the plan is not helpful Very few people on the planet know what is in it ... for now,” Greenblatt wrote. “Peddling false, distorted or biased stories to the media is irresponsible & harmful to the process.”
In separate remarks to reporters, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, predicted that the Trump plan would not be released before an Israeli election on April 9.
Opinion polls predict an easy win that would secure a fifth term for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a rightist whose US-sponsored peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stalled in 2014.
“From what we understand, it will not be presented before the election,” Danon said. “It’s a smart decision because we don’t want it to become the issue of the elections.”