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ISTANBUL, August 17, 2018 (News Wires) - The Turkish currency fell again on Friday, breaking a three-day quiet spell in the country currency crisis, after the United States threatened to impose new sanctions on the NATO country.

The lira dropped about 5 per cent, to about 6.11 per dollar, after US President Donald Trump posted a tweet warning the country of more punitive measures over the continued detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who faces 35 years in prison on charges of espionage and terror-related charges.

Turkey's trade minister, Ruhsar Pekcan, said her government would respond to any new trade duties.

Dashing hopes for a quick solution to the dispute, a Turkish court on Friday rejected an appeal for the pastor's release from house detention. Upholding a lower court's decision earlier this week, it also ruled against lifting a travel ban imposed on Brunson.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on two Turkish government ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Turkey retaliated with some $533 million of tariffs on some US imports - including cars, tobacco and alcoholic drinks - and said it would boycott US electronic goods.

The diplomatic dispute is worsening investors' concerns about Turkey's fundamental economic problems. The country has amassed high levels of foreign debt to fuel growth in recent years and as the currency drops, that debt becomes so much more expensive to repay, leading to potential bankruptcies. Economists are worried of a recession.

WASHINGTON, August 17, 2018 (MENA) - Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said that the United States is preparing more sanctions against Turkey if American pastor Andrew Brunson is not released from custody, The Washington Times reported.

“We have more that we’re planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” he said late Thursday.

Mnuchin gave the update at a Cabinet meeting, where President Trump said Turkey is not turning out to be a great friend of the US.

The administration sanctioned two top Turkish officials last week over the imprisonment of Brunson, who was released from jail last month but is still being detained on house arrest. Turkey has accused him of fomenting an attempted coup, but the US says the charges are phony.

 

SEOUL, August 17, 2018 (MENA) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un harshly criticized international sanctions on the North during his visit to a tourist complex under construction on the North's eastern coast, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Kim, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and ranking government and party officials, inspected the construction site of the Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area.

In a meeting with construction workers there, Kim expressed discontent with international sanctions, accusing "hostile forces" of attempting to stifle the North's people through "brigandish" sanctions and blockade.

Following the North-US summit talks in Singapore on June 12, Pyongyang's official and propaganda media outlets have steadily displayed strong dissatisfaction with Washington-led international sanctions and have pressed South Korea not to blindly follow them.

 

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States imposed sanctions on a Russian port service agency and Chinese firms on Wednesday for aiding North Korean ships and selling alcohol and tobacco to North Korea in breach of US sanctions aimed at pressuring it to end its nuclear programmes.

The US Treasury said in a statement China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co. Ltd and its Singapore-based affiliate SINSMS Pte. Ltd had netted more than $1 billion a year by exporting alcohol and cigarette products to North Korea.

The department also sanctioned Russian-based Profinet Pte Ltd and its director general, Vasili Aleksandrovich Kolchanov, for providing port services on at least six occasions to North Korean-flagged ships.

Kolchanov was personally involved in North Korea-related deals and interacted directly with North Korean representatives in Russia, the department said.

"The tactics that these entities based in China, Singapore, and Russia are using to attempt to evade sanctions are prohibited under US law, and all facets of the shipping industry have a responsibility to abide by them or expose themselves to serious risks," US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions mandate that no US citizen can deal with any of those designated in the order, and any of their properties in the United States "must be blocked", Treasury said.

The United States has been pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Liang Ye, legal representative of Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading, said when asked for comment on the US Treasury statement the matter was still unclear and the Chinese company had not received any notice.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the United States needed to back off with the pressure on North Korea if it was serious about wanting lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.

"Washington should be reminded that the 'maximum pressure' approach on Pyongyang is not in keeping with the current situation on the Korean Peninsula and it needs to consider easing sanctions," Xinhua said in a commentary.

By the Gazette Editorial Board

The trade war the US is launching against various countries under the slogan of "America First" is one aspect of current US policy. The ongoing crisis between Washington and Ankara is seen to be another. But it far exceeds the row over the imprisonment of the American pastor, Andrew Craig Brunson, whom the Turkish Authorities accuse of espionage and ties to terror.

 

Trump recently tweeted that US-Turkish relations were currently not good. They stand, in fact, at a 100-year-low. After having been the biggest and most reliable US ally, one that Washington depended on to contribute to political and military stability, Turkey chose to side with America’s rivals in the course of considering its national interests in the region, especially while dealing with the Syrian file.

 

Relations between the old allies started to deteriorate because of US support for the Kurds in Syria.This raised Ankara's concern over the possible emergence of a Kurdish state on its border and it, therefore, stepped up its military operations in northern Syria targeting the Kurdish regions.

 

Then again, though a member of NATO, Turkey's relations with the West, including the US, recently suffered the most since Erdogan started fostering his authoritarian rule of Turkey, revealing the falsity of the image of his AKP party as an Islamic democratic ruling party.

 

Therefore, the change in Washington's attitude towards Ankara cannot be seen in the light of the new protective economic measures being taken by President Trump to promote the US national economy. It is more likely that America's Trump has lost interest in Erdogan’s Turkey as a Civil Democratic Muslim State that can impose its model on other Muslim countries of the Middle East.

 

Unlike his predecessor who used Ankara to provide political and financial support to some Muslim movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to rule some Arab countries, Trump has turned his back on these fanatical groups as well as Turkey. The reason likely lies in the Turkish ruler’s tendency to disconnect from Western democratic principles and resort to the oppression of his rivals after the alleged coup against his rule in 2016.

 

The question is how far will the two countries work to mend this crack in relations and overcome the current crisis.

 

In retaliation for Trump's decision to boost tariffs on Turkish exports of steel and aluminium to the US that caused the free fall of the Turkish currency in face of the US dollar, Erdogan announced a boycott of US electronic goods.

 

Continuing to escalate measures against each other is likely not only to harm the economies of the two countries but may also provoke geopolitical shifts that might eventually damage the peace and security of the Middle East region and the entire world.

TEHRAN, August 15, 2018 (News Wires) - The United States is trying to make Iran surrender through the imposition of sanctions, Iranian vice president Eshaq Jahangiri said on Wednesday.

New US sanctions against Iran took effect last week, and President Donald Trump said companies doing business with the country will be barred from the United States.

“The first priority for all of us under a sanctions situation is to work toward managing the country in a way that brings the least amount of damage to people’s lives,” Fars News quoted Jahangiri as saying. “America is trying by apply various pressures on our society to force us to retreat and surrender.”

The new sanctions targeted Iranian purchases of US dollars, metals trading, coal, industrial software and its auto sector, though the toughest measures targeting oil exports do not take effect for four more months.

Few US companies do much business in Iran so the impact of sanctions mainly stems from Washington’s ability to block European and Asian firms from trading there.

President Hassan Rouhani made similar comments to Jahangiri, although he did not specifically refer to the United States.

“We will not let the enemy bring us to our knees,” Rouhani said, according to state TV. “If the enemy thinks they will defeat us they will take this hope to the grave with them.”

Washington had said Iran’s only chance of avoiding the sanctions would be to accept an offer by Trump to negotiate a tougher nuclear deal than the international accord struck in 2015.

Iranian officials already rejected the offer and on Monday Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, also ruled out the possibility of talks.

The Iranian economy is beset by high unemployment and a rial currency which has lost half its value since April. The reimposition of sanctions could also make the economic situation worse.

Rouhani said today that the economy is the biggest problem facing the country.

Khamenei accused the Iranian government of economic mismanagement on Monday in the face of reimposed sanctions.

Thousands of Iranians have protested in recent weeks against sharp price rises of some food items, a lack of jobs and state corruption. The protests over the cost of living have often turned into anti-government rallies.

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