Lira drops as Turkey says will go it alone on Syria safe zone

Turkey’s lira weakened on Tuesday after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the country had no choice but to go it alone and establish a safe zone in northeast Syria.

The lira dropped 1 percent to 5.7 per dollar at 4:34 p.m. local time in Istanbul, extending losses this year to 7.2 percent.

“Turkey will not lose a single day,” Erdoğan said in a speech to mark the opening of the new parliamentary year in Ankara. “We are planning to house 2 million people in the safe zone 30 kilometres deep. Our project is ready.”

Turkey and the United States had started work this autumn to police a safe zone inside northeast Syria, but progress has snagged due to differences over the scope of the area and U.S. support for Kurdish militants, who Turkey says are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is an autonomy-seeking fighting force in Turkey that Ankara, the United States and European Union designate as terrorists.

Turkey has not reached the goals it desires with the United States, Erdoğan said.

“After we rescue the region from the terrorist organisation we will start the project with the support of the international community,” he said.

The safe zone will stretch from east of the Euphrates river to the Iraqi border, Erdoğan said.

Turkey and the United States have engaged in frequent political spats, most recently over Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defence missiles, which led to its suspension from a program to build and purchase F-35 stealth fighter jets. Washington imposed economic sanctions on Ankara last year over the detention of a U.S. pastor, sparking a currency crisis.

Turkey will start with resettling 1 million Syrians in 140 villages and 50 districts, Erdoğan said. Preparatory planning is complete, he said.