Mar 26 2018

Turkey signals climbdown on Syria operation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government on Monday signalled it may abandon plans to extend a military incursion into Syria to the district of Manbij should the United States fulfil its promises to deal with the threat posed by Kurdish groups.

The operation may no longer be needed, Deputy Prime Minister Fikri Isik said on Monday in televised comments carried by local broadcaster NTV.

Erdoğan had threatened to send troops into Manbij, where U.S. soldiers are also based to train and equip the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), raising the prospect of military confrontation between the two NATO allies. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials are due in Washington this week to discuss differences with the United States over Syria, which had produced a crisis in relations. The Syrian Kurds have been the most effective fighting force against Islamic State (ISIS) but Turkey says they are terrorists affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Political tensions with the United States had prompted a sell-off of the Turkish lira. The currency weakened to another record low against the dollar last week. The Turkish economy, while growing faster than other G20 countries is vulnerable due to double-digit inflation and a large current account deficit, meaning it needs foreign funding to sustain growth levels.

The lira traded at 3.98 per dollar on Monday, near a record low of 4.03 reached on Friday,