Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proposed at a summit in Kyrgyzstan on Monday that Middle East and Central Asian countries should stop trading in the U.S. dollar and instead use their domestic currencies.
Speaking at the same forum, the 6th Summit of Turkic Council, on Sunday, Erdoğan dismissed the government of America as behaving like “wild wolves” and warned the member countries of the summit to be wary in dealing with Washington.
Turkish has come under U.S. sanctions and faced increased tariffs in response to Ankara’s refusal to release American pastor Andrew Brunson from police custody. Brunson, a North Carolina native who preached in Izmir, Turkey, for over 25 years, was arrested in late 2016 for allegedly spying on behalf of both Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen and the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization. Brunson denies the charges and the Trump administration insists that there is no evidence supporting the Turkish prosecutors’ claims.
Turkish officials refuse to release Brunson, claiming that only the judiciary can decide to do so. The insistence on keeping him imprisoned contradicts remarks Erdoğan made in September, in which he admitted that Brunson was being held as a hostage to trade for the extradition of Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.
The Summit of Turkic Council is an international organization “with the overarching aim of promoting comprehensive cooperation among Turkic Speaking States.” Turkic peoples populate much of Central Asia, and the nations currently comprising the council are Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
At the summit on Monday, Erdoğan told those attending that he was hoping to convince other member nations to abandon the use of the U.S. dollar as a common currency.
“We are proposing to trade in our own currencies rather than U.S. dollar,” he said, according to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper. His comments expand upon remarks that he made at the same forum on Friday condemning the United States for allegedly not trading fairly with Turkey.
“We need to gradually end the monopoly of the dollar once and for all by using local and national currency among us,” Erdoğan said at the conference on Sunday. “America behaves like wild wolves. Don’t believe them.”
“Using the dollar only damages us. We will not give up. We will be victorious,” he added.
Erdoğan also accused unnamed actors of “currency manipulations” meant to “cast down on Turkey’s strong and solid economy,” without directly referring to the United States.
Turkey’s pivot away from the United States and the West more generally has been years in the making under Erdoğan but has gained traction amid the dispute over Brunson’s arrest. In August, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu for their roles in the continued detention of Brunson. America also increased tariffs on aluminum and other key Turkish goods, though the White House insisted some of these tariffs were “specific to national security.”
Speaking to Bloomberg News last week, President Donald Trump lamented of Erdoğan, “I’m disappointed in him,” noting that Trump advocated for the release of a Turkish citizen arrested in Israel but Erdoğan has refused to release Brunson.
In response to the pressure, Erdoğan has increasingly attempted to make the argument that the Brunson dispute is a larger struggle against the Islamic world.
“Do not forget, Anatolia is a wall and if this wall collapses, there will no longer be a Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Balkans or Caucasus,” Erdoğan said in an address last week, insisting that the issue his opponents have with him is not personal distaste, but “their issue is Turkey. The issue is Islam.”
“Those who know the West, know being a Turk means being a Muslim. Turkey means all Muslims’ hope. We are the only country and nation who has direct contact with the West but is still able to protect its identity and freedom,” he insisted.
A week before this address, Erdoğan called the new tariffs an attack not just on Turkey, but “no different from a direct strike against our flag and call to prayer.”
Turkey’s economic officials announced new plans on Monday to mitigate the damage to the nation’s economy as a product of the dispute with the United States. The value of the Turkish lira has declined significantly since sanctions took place, weakening Turkey’s ability to do business with much of the rest of the world.
“Recent developments regarding the inflation outlook indicate significant risks to price stability. The Central Bank will take the necessary actions to support price stability,” the Turkish Central Bank assured on Monday. “Accordingly, in line with the previous communication, monetary stance will be adjusted at the September Monetary Policy Committee Meeting in view of the latest developments.”