Turkey May 2020-

Written by  //  July 28, 2021  //  Europe & EU, Turkey  //  No comments

Turkey 2018 – May 2020
#ArtsakhStrong Solidarity Toolkit

28 July
President Erdogan’s government is facing increased criticism over its apparent poor response and inadequate preparedness.

20 March
Erdogan Pulls Turkey From European Treaty on Domestic Violence
The move is likely to please President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative followers. He also removed the head of the central bank.
(NYT) Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning government has sought to recast the debate over women’s rights by supporting traditional family values over equality for women, and by emphasizing women’s role as nurturers of children. Women’s groups counter that violence against women has soared during Mr. Erdogan’s tenure, and they blame his support of traditional conservative values and impunity for perpetrators before the law.
Mr. Erdogan does not face re-election until 2023, but his popularity has fallen amid an economic downturn. Opposition parties are gaining strength, and at this point he would likely struggle to win a presidential election even with his nationalist allies.

25 February
Turkey’s mobsters step out of shadows and into public sphere
After decades in hiding, in prison or keeping low profile, players from a bloody period in the country’s history are now seen as ‘folk idols’ by the Turkish right.
The Turkish mafia’s sudden rehabilitation in public life has taken a hold on the popular imagination. It also suggests a new political climate is emerging in which the state at best tolerates, and at worst, embraces, previously shadowy figures.
… one of the most significant ways in which Turkey’s political alliances were transformed in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016 appears to be the rebirth of the Turkish far right as a prominent political force. Having alienated most other potential political partners in the last 20 years, and as the AKP’s popularity continues to wane, the president now has little choice but to stick with MHP if he wants to hang on to power.
The AKP itself is also no stranger to corruption and criminal scandals. The growing prominence of MHP and its unsavoury friends has left some wondering whether Turkey may yet turn into a bona fide mafia state.

16 February
Erdoğan vows to expand fight against PKK after deaths of 13 hostages
More than 700 alleged supporters of Kurdish militants held following failed attempt to rescue Turkish soldiers and police
The deaths have caused shock waves in Turkey, where the government sought to deflect blame for the failed rescue operation and whip up nationalistic fervour with a wave of arrests of members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) over alleged PKK links.
Opposition parties have accused the government of failing to negotiate a peaceful release, even though they had previously raised the issue of the captured men in parliament.
Turkey has stepped up operations against the PKK since last summer, when it launched Operation Claw-Eagle and Operation Claw-Tiger on suspected PKK installations across northern Iraq, with the cooperation of the area’s autonomous Kurdistan regional government (KRG). According to the conflict monitor Airwars, more Iraqi civilians were killed in 2020 as a result of the Turkey-PKK conflict than at any time since 2015.
More than 700 people have been arrested in Turkey since Monday for alleged PKK support, including the HDP’s provincial and district chairs, raising fears of a new, and possibly final, crackdown on the party.


24 November
Arab states are fighting back against Turkey’s ‘neo-Ottomanism’
By Jake Wallis Simons
(The Spectator) A hundred years ago, the Turkish Republic was founded on secularism. Ataturk banned religion from the public realm, prohibited the Arabic call to prayer, and encouraged men and women to mix. But for years, Erdoğan has done all he can to reverse the Turkish liberal consensus in favour of a new authoritarianism – and is taking on muscular adventurism abroad.
For Israel and the US, Iran is unlikely to be knocked from the top of their worry list. Other countries in the region, however, are less concerned about a Tehran already weakened by sanctions, Covid and an Israeli air campaign in Syria. It is now Ankara that is keeping them up at night.
Across the Mediterranean, Turkish muscle enabled the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord to crush the rebel Khalifa Haftar in Libya, allowing Turkey to gain a foothold in North Africa and lock out antagonists like Egypt and the UAE. And beyond the Aras river on Turkey’s eastern flank, Erdoğan is sitting pretty, with the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh ending decisively in favour of his ally, Azerbaijan – with the help of Ankara’s fearsome drone programme.
In a sign of the times, Pakistan, traditionally an ally of Saudi Arabia, came down on the side of Turkey in the South Caucasus fight. Islamabad laid money on the right horse.
Western powers have reason to be worried about the rise of the neo-Ottoman empire. Not only does Turkey control Europe’s gas supply and migrant flows, its regional meddling profoundly undermines Western interests.
The backdrop to all this is Turkey’s alliance with Qatar. Bonded by their support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, the two Sunni states are formidable supporters of terror. Senior Hamas operatives are welcomed in both countries, and both also reportedly host Hamas’ command-and-control facilities.
Defence cooperation between Turkey and Qatar now runs deep. They jointly provide cyber security to the oil-rich Sheikdom, and the Turkish armoured vehicles manufacturer BMC is half-owned by a Qatari investment fund.

18 November
Turkey Forges a New Geo-Strategic Axis from Azerbaijan to Ukraine
Taras Kuzio
(Rusi.org) A new informal alliance is emerging in Southeastern Europe, and it is being led by Turkey.
Azerbaijan’s victory on the battlefield against Armenia and the recovery of seven occupied districts surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and the southern part of this enclave centred on the important cultural centre of Shusha (Shushi) would not have been possible without Turkish diplomatic and military assistance. Turkey invested in training Azerbaijan’s armed forces according to NATO standards and supplied drones, other forms of military technology and its Syrian proxy forces fighting along the Turkish–Syrian border, copying Russia’s longstanding use of proxy forces in Ukraine and Eurasia. Speaking in Baku on 12 November, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that his country would continue to give its support to Baku for any further steps it would decide to take towards Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey as a New Regional Power
Turkey’s new and for the moment putative geopolitical alliance is built on longstanding ties between pro-Western or Western-leaning states in the former USSR who had created the GUAM group in the late 1990s, bringing together Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. GUAM stagnated after the election of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2010 and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili leaving office three years later. Renamed the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, it revived its operations after Ukraine’s 2013–14 Euromaidan Revolution. Ironically, Azerbaijan chaired GUAM in the year it took back much of its occupied territory.

21 October
Fighting rages as Armenia, Azerbaijan engage in talks
After almost one month of fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, dozens of civilians and hundreds of soldiers have been killed.
(Al Jazeera) Turkey will not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request is made by Baku, Vice President Fuat Okaty said, adding there was no such request at the moment.
Turkey has vowed full solidarity with Azerbaijan and has accused Yerevan of occupying Azeri lands.
Speaking in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Oktay also criticised the OSCE’s Minsk group – formed to mediate the conflict and led by France, Russia and the United States – of trying to keep the issue unresolved and supporting Armenia, both politically and militarily.

9 October
Turkey’s Black Sea Gas Discovery May Be Bigger Than Thought
In August, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan said that the country had made a large natural gas discovery in its waters in the Black Sea. Back then, the estimate Turkey gave was of 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas and said this was its largest-ever gas discovery. Erdogan hailed the find as a historic find that would help Turkey’s energy security.
Turkey currently imports nearly all the gas it consumes.
…after further exploration drilling is completed, Bloomberg’s sources said, the Turkish government is about to disclose a “sizable revision” to the initial estimate.
Champagne tells Turkey to ‘stay out’ of Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict
(Canadian Press) Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Friday he deplores a statement by Azerbaijan’s president that a military solution is the only way to solve his country’s current crisis with Armenia.
The renewed fighting in the decades-old conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region entered its ninth day Friday and will be a key focus of Champagne’s second overseas trip in less than two months.
Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Turkish involvement
(AP via CBC) The current escalation marked the first time that Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey took a high profile in the conflict, offering strong political support. Over the past few years, Turkey provided Azerbaijan with state-of-the-art weapons, including drones and rocket systems that helped the Azerbaijani military outgun the Nagorno-Karabakh separatist forces in the latest fighting.
Armenian officials say Turkey is involved in the conflict and is sending Syrian mercenaries to fight on Azerbaijan’s side. Turkey has denied deploying combatants to the region, but a Syrian war monitor and three Syria-based opposition activists have confirmed that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh.

8 October
Greece, Cyprus threaten EU sanctions against Turkey over Varosha
Greece says if Turkey does not reverse reopening part of Cypriot ghost town, it may seek to trigger economic sanctions.
The latest move by Turkey risks upending decades of efforts to achieve a political reunification of the island as a federal, bi-communal state.
It is also a slap in the face of the EU, which last week resisted Greek and Cypriot calls for sanctions over Turkey’s hydrocarbon exploration in the region.

2 October
Why Armenia and Azerbaijan Are on the Brink of War
(Foreign Affairs) Turkey sided with Azerbaijan in the initial conflict in the 1990s, and the two countries share close ethnic and cultural ties. Commentators and officials—mostly Turks—describe the relationship as “one nation, two states.” Until recently, however, Turkey’s involvement in the dispute was relatively limited. But as Ankara has adopted a more assertive posture in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has become more forthright in its support for Azerbaijan.

2 October
Nagorno-Karabakh: Turkey’s Support For Azerbaijan Challenges Russian Leverage
(NPR) As world powers call for peace and the warring parties pledge to fulfill “historic” missions, ordinary people are suffering the most as fighting flared this week in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region on Russia’s southern border. The territory, located in Azerbaijan, is claimed by both Armenians and Azerbaijanis.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Friday it “welcomed” the condemnation of violence by the presidents of Russia, France and the United States. The ministry said Armenia is “committed” to a peaceful resolution and accused Turkey of direct involvement in the most recent hostilities.
Turkey is not hiding its support for Azerbaijan. The two countries have close ethnic and linguistic kinship, while Turkey’s relations with Armenia are burdened by the Ottoman Empire’s 1915 mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians, which most historians and a growing number of countries, including the U.S., consider genocide. Turkey rejects the term.
In a speech to the Turkish Parliament Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed Armenia for the renewed fighting and said, “Our Azerbaijani brothers are now waiting for the day they will return to their land.”

11 September
Eric Reguly: A dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean has brought Turkey and Greece close to war once again. But this time it’s different
Every decade or so, the two countries come close to blows over a disputed hunk of rock or stretch of water in the Aegean Sea and other seemingly insignificant bits of the Mediterranean. There were little skirmishes in 1987 and 1996, either of which could have turned explosive if cooler heads had not prevailed.
This time it’s different, because potentially vast reserves of gas, and perhaps oil, are at stake and every country in the region wants a piece of the action. Many are getting it, but not Turkey. The gas discoveries were supposed to unite the region’s countries, including the Palestinian Territories, and provide them with cheap energy and a steady stream of export dollars. Instead, the fight over hydrocarbon exploration rights has injected another dose of instability into an already volatile region.
Everyone knows the Eastern Mediterranean contains lots of gas; some of it is already being delivered by pipeline to Egypt and Israel, cutting their energy import bills and carbon footprints. History has largely sidelined Turkey. The way the maps of the territorial waters, continental shelves and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) are drawn means that Greece and its ally the Republic of Cyprus have the greatest access to the subsea spoils in the Aegean and huge swaths of the Levantine Sea.

27 August
Turkey Tests the EU’s Resolve in the Eastern Mediterranean
(Carnegie Europe) The contentious issues between leading NATO member Turkey and Western European countries abound: Syrian refugees, Turkey’s maritime boundaries with Greece and Cyprus, drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Turkish military operations in Syria and Libya, and NATO’s missile defense architecture.
Lately, Ankara has chosen to pursue an antagonistic approach, making disruption a major ingredient of its foreign policy. When existing rules do not serve its objectives—as with the dispute over maritime boundaries and drilling permits—Turkey unilaterally creates new rules, in the belief that the other side will bow to pressure.
The reasons for Turkey’s policy attitude are to be found in the country’s domestic political situation.
Opinion polls are bleak for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has been in power since November 2002. Since the 2017 change of constitution, the 2018 presidential and legislative elections, and the 2019 municipal election, the religious-conservative party has lost its long-standing political dominance in Turkey.
In addition, a string of misguided economic and monetary policy decisions—especially on interest rates—has put the economy and the Turkish lira in dire straits, despite spending $65 billion in hard currency reserves to buffer the country’s currency.

14 August
Iran and Turkey denounce UAE over deal with Israel
(The Guardian) Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has increasingly styled himself as the Palestinians’ lone regional champion, despite his country having had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades.
After the Trump administration published a “vision for peace” in January, Erdoğan said Turkey would never accept the proposals and accused Arab Gulf nations of betraying the Palestinian cause.
In response to the UAE deal, Turkey’s foreign ministry said: “History and the conscience of the people living in the region will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behaviour.”

16 July
Five Reasons Why the West Will Lose Turkey
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,647
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Turkey we once knew no longer exists. Despite NATO objections and US warnings, Ankara acquired the advanced S-400 anti-aircraft system from Russia. In response, Washington canceled Turkish participation in the F-35 program. In the latest episode of this saga, a Turkish court sentenced a US Consulate employee to almost nine years in prison for aiding the Gülen movement. President Erdoğan has behaved like a bully toward the EU, weaponizing Muslim refugees and migrants. He has also issued direct threats to Greece and regularly antagonizes Israel.
… First, Turkey is changing fast. The Islamization of the country is a bottom-up rather than a top-down process. Anatolian Turks, who tend to be more conservative and religious, have higher birth rates than the westernized Turks of Istanbul and the Aegean coast.
Second, the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War has led to the dramatic revitalization of the Kurdish Question. In November 2013, the establishment of the Kurdish autonomous region of Rojava sent shock waves through Ankara.
Third, the gradual withdrawal of the US from the Middle East and the subsequent return of Russia have changed regional security dynamics.
Fourth, Turkey’s growing ties with Russia are neither tactical nor coincidental. Geopolitical considerations partly explain Turkey’s departure from its pro-Western orientation.
Fifth, Turkey is becoming an authoritarian country. Turkey has a long tradition of westernization, but it is on a slippery slope where the rule of law is becoming increasingly problematic and the division of powers has grown blurry.

10 July
Erdogan Signs Decree Allowing Hagia Sophia to Be Used as a Mosque Again
The decree came after a Turkish court revoked the site’s 80-year-old status as a museum and is likely to provoke an international furor.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decree Friday ordering Hagia Sophia to be opened for Muslim prayers, an action likely to provoke international furor around a World Heritage Site cherished by Christians and Muslims alike for its religious significance, for its stunning structure and as a symbol of conquest.
The presidential decree came minutes after a Turkish court announced that it had revoked Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, which for the last 80 years had made it a monument of relative harmony and a symbol of the secularism that was part of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

7 May
Erdogan Faces His Biggest Test of the Pandemic: The Economy
Some are hoping that the coronavirus achieves what some of the president’s advisers have failed to do: persuade Mr. Erdogan to reverse his authoritarian grip over fiscal policy in Turkey.
(NYT) An economic crisis was looming even before the coronavirus gripped Turkey with unexpected ferocity. But the contagion has quickly and ruthlessly laid bare the ways President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has left the economy vulnerable, presenting him with the greatest challenge of his 18 years in power.
The outbreak has exacerbated already high unemployment and inflation, and unified his political opposition. It has raised fresh concerns about Mr. Erdogan’s heavy investment in giant infrastructure projects that analysts have long warned were too costly to sustain.

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