By Enes Duran, Merve Ozlem Cakir, and Mustafa Calkaya
ANKARA (AA) - The ongoing Turkish-led counter-terrorist operation in Syria won't narrow Turkey’s fiscal options, said the Turkish development minister on Thursday.
"We prepared the 2018 budget with Operation Olive Branch [in Afrin, Syria] in mind,” Lutfi Elvan told Anadolu Agency Editor’s Desk, where he was special guest.
“The operation won't have any narrowing effects on our fiscal space. Foreign exchange is continuing steadily. Economic expectations and our expectations for exports and employment are positive.”
He stated that they raised the defense budget almost 40 percent.
"Turkey’s economy was built on a solid, powerful basis. We will continue to get stronger with growth based on investment, production, and exports in 2018 as well," he said.
-'Allies should act like allies'
Elvan also slammed the attitude of Turkey’s allies towards Operation Olive Branch, the counter-terrorist operation in Syria near Turkey’s border.
"Allies are expected to act like allies, but unfortunately many of our allies choose to be silent on the Afrin operation," he said.
Turkey will never allow the establishment of a terrorist state on its border and will always fight terrorist groups which threaten the country and region, he said.
"Our operation in Afrin continues with success. We won’t be swayed from our determination on this subject. We told the whole world," Elvan added.
Elvan also decried how the U.S. is supporting the terrorist PYD/PKK, the terrorist PKK's Syrian branch, even though the U.S. recognizes the PKK as a terrorist group which has taken tens of thousands of lives in Turkey.
Against Turkey’s strong objections, the U.S. has called the terrorist PYD/PKK a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh.
In addition, Elvan said that Turkey continues to fight Daesh and will keep fighting terrorism to protect Turkey's security.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to clear PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin, northwestern Syria.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
- 'No concerns about current account deficit'
"I don't think that we should worry about the current account deficit.", said Elvan.
Turkey ran a current account deficit of $7.7 billion in December 2017, the Turkish Central Bank said on Wednesday.
Data showed the annual deficit reached $47.1 billion in 2017.
"We have a structural problem with the current account deficit and we’ve started to take measures on it," Elvan said, adding that Turkey expects more tourism revenues this year, which will help reduce the deficit.
- ‘Unemployment will fall more this year’
Elvan said that from November 2016 to November 2017, additional jobs had been provided for 1.4 million people.
"In the youth unemployment rate, we see a very serious fall and rise in the labor force participation rate," he said.
Elvan said that thanks to measures to boost jobs, unemployment in Turkey will continue to fall in 2018.
Elvan added that despite the rising labor force participation, the additional jobs reduced unemployment.
Unemployment last November totaled 10.3 percent, falling 1.8 percentage points on a yearly basis, the country's statistical authority said on Thursday.
TurkStat stated that the number of unemployed people age 15 and over – 3.27 million last November -- fell 440,000 year-on-year.