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Turkey warns partnership with US in 'jeopardy'

President Erdogan says Ankara could start looking for new allies as relations with NATO partner sink to a new low.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's partnership with the United States is in jeopardy, warning Ankara could start looking for new allies.

Relations between the NATO allies have sunk to their lowest point in decades over a number of issues, including the detention of US pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism-related charges, prompting the Turkish lira to hit record lows against the dollar.

The embattled lira tumbled 16 percent against the dollar on Friday, with US President Donald Trump saying he doubled steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkey - comments that contributed to the currency's further slide.

In a New York Times opinion piece on Saturday, Erdogan warned Washington not to risk relations with Ankara otherwise his country would look for "new friends and allies".

"Unless the United States starts respecting Turkey's sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy," he wrote.

"Before it is too late, Washington must give up the misguided notion that our relationship can be asymmetrical and come to terms with the fact that Turkey has alternatives."

'Total disgrace'

In a tweet, Trump announced the doubling of the tariffs in new punitive actions against Turkey, saying: "Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!"

Erdogan downplayed the currency crisis in a speech on Friday, advising Turks not to be worried over exchange-rate fluctuations.

He also said Turkey had alternatives "from Iran, to Russia, to China and some European countries".

The arrest of Brunson in October 2016 soured deeply delicate relations with Washington. Trump has described the American's detention as a "total disgrace" and urged Erdogan to free him "immediately".

In Saturday's op-ed, Erdogan said: "Attempting to force my government to intervene in the judicial process is not in line with our constitution or our shared democratic values."

'Shameful'

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waded into the intensifying dispute between Ankara and Washington on Saturday, accusing the US of an "addiction to sanctions and bullying".

Trump's "jubilation in inflicting economic hardship on its NATO ally Turkey is shameful", Zarif wrote on Twitter.

"The US has to rehabilitate its addiction to sanctions [and] bullying or the entire world will unite - beyond verbal condemnations - to force it to," he warned.

"We've stood with neighbours before and will again now."

The lira has lost more than 40 percent this year. It hit a record low after Trump announced he authorised higher tariffs on imports from Turkey, imposing duties of 20 percent on aluminium and 50 percent on steel.

Erdogan, who said a shadowy "interest rate lobby" and Western credit ratings agencies are attempting to bring down Turkey’s economy, appealed to his countrymen's patriotism.

"If there is anyone who has dollars or gold under their pillows, they should go exchange it for liras at our banks. This is a national, domestic battle," he told a crowd in the northeastern city of Bayburt on Friday.

"Some countries have engaged in behaviour that protects coup plotters and knows no laws or justice," he said. "Relations with countries who behave like this have reached a point beyond salvaging," said Erdogan, who warned of "economic war".


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