Turkish lira slightly firmer after Trump vows 'no concessions'

The Turkish lira stood at 6.0700 against US currency, gaining from a close of 6.0865 as Turkish markets as the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival commences.
The Turkish lira stood at 6.0700 against US currency, gaining from a close of 6.0865 as Turkish markets as the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival commences.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish lira firmed slightly against the dollar in holiday trade on Tuesday (Aug 21), shrugging off comments by US President Donald Trump ruling out agreeing to any demands from Turkey to gain the release of a detained American pastor.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump said he was not concerned that his tough stance could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.

The lira stood at 6.0700 against the US currency at 0500 GMT, gaining from a close of 6.0865 on Monday, when Turkish markets entered a holiday to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival which continues for the rest of the week.

Trump said he thought he had a deal with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan when he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen.

He had thought Erdogan would then release pastor Andrew Brunson, who denies Turkey's allegations that he was involved in a plot against Erdogan two years ago.

"I think it's very sad what Turkey is doing. I think they're making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions," he said.

Turkey has demanded that the United States hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric in the United States suspected in the coup plot against Erdogan, but the United States has balked at this.

On Monday, Erdogan appealed to Turks' religious and patriotic feelings ahead of the Muslim holiday, promising they would not be brought "to their knees" by the crisis that has battered the lira.

Trump has imposed tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminium in response to Erdogan's refusal to free Brunson, raising concerns of economic damage in Europe and in emerging market economies.

"I'm not concerned at all. I'm not concerned. This is the proper thing to do," he said, when asked about the potential damage to other economies.

Trump said Erdogan had wanted the Turkish citizen returned from Israel. Trump and Erdogan met in Brussels for a Nato summit in mid-July where they discussed Brunson's case and what could be the way forward to release the pastor, a senior White House official said earlier.

Turkey had sought US help to persuade the Israelis to release a Turkish woman who was being held in Israel, the senior official said. In exchange Turkey would release Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkey. Trump said he kept his side of the bargain.

"I got that person out for him. I expect him to let this very innocent and wonderful man and great father and great Christian out of Turkey," Trump said.

The dispute threatens to intensify a split between the United States and Turkey, a key NATO ally that plans to buy Russian missiles.

Israel, which confirmed that Trump had requested Ebru Ozkan's release, deported her on July 15.

 
 
 

Ankara has denied ever agreeing to free Brunson in return. Trump added: "I like Turkey. I like the people of Turkey very much. Until now I had a very good relationship as you know with the president. I got along with him great. I had a very good relationship. But it can't be a one-way street. It's no longer a one-way street for the United States."

Turning to Iran, Trump showed little interest in meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme after earlier this month expressing a willingness to do so.

The Iranians, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei, have dismissed the offer.

Trump said it did not matter to him whether he met Iran's leaders or not and that there had been no US outreach toward Iran to discuss talks.

Trump's withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers earlier this year has raised tensions between Washington and Tehran. "If they want to meet that's fine, and if they don't want to meet, I couldn't care less," he said.