SHANGHAI: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) congress that Turkey would press on with and expand its cross-border military operations.
Turkey sent troops into northern Syria two years ago to fight against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive backing from the US-led coalition in the battle against Daesh.
But Turkey accuses the YPG of being the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies.
The Turkish army has also increased its strikes against PKK rear bases in the north of Iraq in the past few months.
Erdogan also declared on Saturday that his country would not be cowed by the US.
The two countries are at odds over Turkey’s detention of an American pastor, which has triggered a trade row and sent the local currency the lira into a tailspin.
“We will not surrender to those who present themselves as a strategic partner while at the same time trying to make us a strategic target,” Erdogan said at the congress.
“Some people threaten us with economy, sanctions, foreign currency exchange rates, interest rates and inflation. We know your shenanigans and we will defy you.”
Last week, US President Donald Trump said he had doubled the tariffs on aluminum and steel tariffs from Turkey, prompting Ankara to sharply hike tariffs on several US products.
And Turkey on Friday threatened to respond in kind if Washington imposed further sanctions, while a court rejected another appeal to free pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held for almost two years on terror charges.
The lira has nosedived against the dollar, dropping as much as 20 percent on one day last week. It sunk to a low of well over seven to the dollar earlier this week but was trading at just over six to the dollar on Friday — a loss of 40 percent since the start of the year.
The collapse of the currency has been blamed both on the tensions with the US and Erdogan’s increasing hold on Turkey’s economy and his refusal to allow the central bank to raise interest rates.
On Saturday, China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, told Turkey’s foreign minister that Beijing supports the Turkish government’s efforts to safeguard security and economic stability and believes that it will overcome its “temporary difficulties.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Wang had made the comments in a phone call with the Turkish Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Turkish lira has lost a third of its value against the dollar this year as worsening relations between Turkey and the US added to losses driven by concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy.
Cavusoglu spoke about the current situation in Turkey during the phone call and said his government was willing to strengthen strategic communication with China, the statement said.
Beijing first commented on the issue on Friday in a Foreign Ministry statement in which it offered moral support to Turkey.