Turkey will focus economy, defence and Syrian crisis - top aide

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan administration will focus on the economy, the crisis in Syria and the country's defence capabilities in the wake of the local election, a top aide said on Saturday.

"On the home front, getting the Turkish economy back on track will be the administration's top priority," Fahrettin Altun, the communications director of the Turkish presidency, said in an article for Al Jazeera.

Following escalating tension with the United States, Turkey’s economy has been staggering. A decade-long stellar economic expansion reached to a halt in the wake of turmoil in Turkish financial markets last year, sparked by distress about Erdoğan’s economic and foreign policies. The Turkish lira has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar until the end of 2018.

"At the same time, the Erdogan administration will devote time and energy to neutralising national security threats emanating from Syria," Altun said, "Our next objective is to liberate Manbij, which remains occupied by PKK's Syrian branch, and eliminate all terrorist activities between the Euphrates River and the Syria-Iraq border," he added.

Turkey sees Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearheaded the U.S.-backed coalition in the fight against the Islamic State, as the Syrian offshoot of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has waged a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

"Although Turkey boasts NATO's second-largest army, the Syrian civil war convinced the Turkish leadership that the country needs to strengthen its air defences," the top aide said.

Turkey expected that NATO would respect Turkey's "sovereignty" and accept the country's S-400 deal with Russia, according to Altun.

"Our cooperation with Russia on energy, national defence and other areas does not mean Turkey has a negative view of the NATO alliance," he added.

U.S. and NATO officials have spoken out against the S-400 deal since it was announced in December 2017, warning that a purchase of the Russian system could expose vulnerabilities in NATO military hardware, including the new generation F-35 stealth fighter jet. Recently, the United States has threatened Turkey with sanctions if it does not drop the deal.