Albayrak, Turkish central bank chief skip IMF meetings in Washington

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and the country’s central bank chief will not attend annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank this week in Washington amid an international furore over Turkey’s military incursion into Syria.

Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Central Bank Governor Murat Uysal will send deputies instead, according to reports in the Turkish media on Thursday.

Turkey is embroiled in an international diplomatic crisis over its decision to unilaterally send troops into Syria last week to battle Kurdish militants and to set up a safe zone in the country’s north. The tensions prompted President Donald Trump to issue sanctions this week, including barring several Turkish ministers from traveling to the United States. Albayrak was not among those punished.

Albayrak will send Bulent Aksu, one of his three deputy ministers, while the central bank will be represented at deputy governor level, Dünya newspaper reported.

The snub to the IMF also comes after Manhattan prosecutors issued an indictment on Tuesday against Turkey’s state-run Halkbank on charges of conspiring to evade sanctions on Iran. Erdoğan and Albayrak had sought to pressure the White House to block the potential case, which could result in heavy fines and barring Halkbank from the U.S. financial system.

Relations with the IMF are at a low ebb after a visiting team from the fund held meetings with representatives of opposition parties during an annual review of Turkey’s economy this summer. A subsequent IMF report on economic progress was highly critical of the government’s policies.

The decision also follows Albayrak’s attendance at IMF and World Bank meetings in the U.S. capital in April, during which he made a high-profile presentation to hundreds of investors that was widely criticised as being ineffectual. 

Turkey’s government has implemented a raft of unconventional measures to help the economy recover from a slump sparked by a currency crisis in August last year. The steps have included issuing cheap loans via Halkbank and other state-run lenders and replacing the central bank governor for failing to lower interest rates.