US doubles tariffs amid Turkish currency crisis

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Berat Albayrak, Turkey's treasury and finance minister, adresses a conference in Istanbul on Aug. 10, 2018, as a financial shockwave ripped through Turkey, with its currency nosediving on concerns about its economic policies and a dispute with the US. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
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Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of the closing bell on August 10, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down nearly 200 points on Friday, as markets reacted negatively to a sharp plunge in Turkish currency, the Lira, as Turkey heads toward a potential financial crisis. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)
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A man counts his Turkish liras outside a currency exchange shop in an Istanbul's market on Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
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A man walks out of a currency exchange shop in an Istanbul's market on Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Mucahid Yapici)
Updated 11 August 2018
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US doubles tariffs amid Turkish currency crisis

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan" “We will not lose the economic war” with the West. 
  • Expert says pastor's case intertwined with broader economic crisis in Turkey, which has been developing over many years

ANKARA: While Turkey endures one of the worst currency crises in its history, with the lira hitting record lows, US President Donald Trump on Friday announced a doubling of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Turkey. 
The announcement is the latest escalation in a diplomatic spat over the detention in Turkey of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, on espionage and terror-related charges. Talks between Turkish and US authorities collapsed on Thursday. 
“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar!” Trump tweeted.
“Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” 
Turkey is the eighth-largest steel producer in the world and the sixth-largest steel exporter to the US. Turkish steel exports to the US stood at $1.1 billion last year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told worshippers after Friday prayers that the country “will not lose the economic war” with the West. 
“They say things like foreign exchange rates. Get over it. We will keep growing despite attacks,” he added.
“No one can push the Turkish people… with fines, threats or sanctions. Solving this problem (over Brunson) is only possible through calm negotiations and diplomacy.” 
Turkish businesses that operate based on foreign currencies are expected to be hit hard by the weakening lira. 
The Istanbul Chamber of Industry urged the government on Friday to take “urgent” measures. 
Some experts say mismanagement of macroeconomic challenges, weak monetary policy, high inflation and expansionary fiscal policies are the biggest problems facing Turkey’s economy. 
Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said Trump’s tweet reaffirmed his administration’s determination to go to great lengths to free Brunson, in a way that will hurt Erdogan’s proud image.  “We have a rhetorical question in Turkey: ‘Do you want to eat grapes or do you want to beat up the winegrower?’ In this case, Trump doesn’t sound like it’s grapes he’s after,” Unluhisarcikli told Arab News. 
Some experts say to address its larger economic problems, Turkey may have to resort to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  
Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at St. Lawrence University and senior non-resident fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy, said two issues have become intertwined.  
“The first is the crisis with the US, which has come to a head in the past few weeks. The second is the broader economic crisis in Turkey, which has been developing over many years,” he told Arab News. 
The spat with the US has clearly exacerbated the larger economic crisis, but resolving the former will not fix the latter, Eissenstat said.
“On the other hand, allowing the US crisis to spin out of control will clearly make the broader issues more acute,” he added.
“The US wants to keep Turkey as an ally, but at this point Turkey will have to take aggressive action to alleviate US concerns, which have been festering for a long time,” he said.
“It’s possible that Erdogan will do so; he has reversed himself in the past. But I don’t expect him to do so, at least in the short term,” Eissenstat added.
“This spat has become too public and too wrapped up with Erdogan’s deeply felt belief that the US is trying to undermine him.”


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.