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In deliberate snub, top Turkish officials to skip annual IMF meetings

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Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and the country’s central bank governor will not attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank this week in Washington amid an international furor over Turkey’s military incursion into Syria, the Ahval news website reported.

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

The snub of 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 into blocking the case, which could result in heavy fines and barring Halkbank from the US financial system.

Relations with the IMF are at a low point after a 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 US capital in April during which he made a high-profile presentation to hundreds of investors that was widely criticized as being ineffective.

Turkey’s government has implemented a score of unconventional measures to help the economy recover from a slump sparked by a currency crisis in August of 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.

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