Turkey January 2023-

Written by  //  February 8, 2023  //  Europe & EU, Turkey  //  No comments

Marc Pierini: Understanding Turkey’s Geostrategic Posture
(Carnegie Eu) In the run-up to the 2023 elections, Turkey’s foreign policy will be shaped by domestic politics. To stand a chance of winning, the opposition must unite and put forward a cohesive electoral program.
It remains to be seen what the six-party opposition coalition will have to propose as an electoral platform. This coalition has so far been united mainly by its opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Its domestic ambitions are clear—returning to the parliamentary system, reinstating the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, and moving toward a sounder economic policy—but its foreign policy proposals are far less known and cohesive. The publication of a comprehensive platform is expected.
Whether the opposition coalition will be able to get their act together and stand united will be a litmus test for them and for Turkey’s democracy. (17 November 2022)

No aid in NW Syria, ‘only dead bodies coming through’: Rescuers
Rescuers are racing against time to save thousands of people believed to be buried under rubble in Turkey and Syria.
The Syrian Civil Defence, leading efforts to rescue people buried under rubble in rebel-held areas of earthquake-hit Syria, says it has not received any aid so far.
The death toll from the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday has risen to more than 12,000.
(Al Jazeera) Turkey is working on opening two more border gates with Syria to enable the flow of humanitarian aid to its earthquake-hit neighbour, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says.
The Bab al-Hawa border gate is the only one open for humanitarian aid under United Nations Security Council authorisation, but Cavusoglu told reporters that damage to the Syrian road leading away from the border crossing is hampering the quake response.
“There are some difficulties in terms of Turkey’s and the international community’s aid [reaching Syria],” the foreign minister said. “For this reason, efforts are being made to open two more border gates.”

How Turkey’s Erdoğan responds to quake could impact his reelection chances
(GZERO) While offers of international aid pour in and rescue teams work around the clock to find survivors, one person wants to be seen as being firmly in command and on top of the recovery effort in Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
After all, it’s an election year with very high stakes for him. Ahead of the May 14 presidential vote, Erdoğan’s reelection bid remains too close to call in the polls as he faces the biggest challenge to his leadership since he came to power 20 years ago, first as PM and later as president.
What’s more, failing to rise to the moment amid a large-scale natural disaster can be a political death knell in Turkey.
… Turkey’s leader will also step up his diplomatic game. Somewhat out of character for the famously pugnacious Erdoğan, it’s unlikely he will now want to pick even more fights with Sweden over its already stalled NATO bid, with eternal rival Greece over maritime sovereignty in the eastern Mediterranean, or with Kurdish militants over, well, being Kurdish militants.
“The devastating earthquakes will give Erdoğan an opening to engage with allies and testy neighbors alike in a positive manner,” Peker explains. “He will likely use it to support his foreign-policy balancing act.”
UPDATE Death toll from massive Turkey-Syria earthquakes soars over 7,000
(CBS) Tens of thousands of people were injured in the two nations and an untold number left homeless in harsh winter conditions.
The death toll from Monday’s devastating earthquakes and more than 300 aftershocks in southeast Turkey and northern Syria soared over 6,000 Tuesday, authorities said, as crews raced to try to find survivors in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings. The aftershocks, including a magnitude 5.7 temblor that hit Tuesday, made the searching itself dangerous
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that he was declaring a state of emergency for three months across 10 provinces in the earthquake zone. The country’s vice president, Fuat Oktay, told reporters that 8,000 people had been pulled from under rubble. He said there were 20,000 people taking part in the rescue efforts.
Nations from around the world began pouring aid material and rescue teams into the region. Oktay said rescue teams from 14 countries were already in Turkey and teams from 70 more nations were expected as the day progressed.
Rescuers scramble in Turkey, Syria after quake kills 4,000
(AP) — Rescuers in Turkey and war-ravaged Syria searched through the frigid night into Tuesday, hoping to pull more survivors from the rubble after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 4,000 people and toppled thousands of buildings across a wide region.
Authorities feared the death toll from Monday’s pre-dawn earthquake and aftershocks would keep climbing as rescuers looked for survivors among tangles of metal and concrete spread across the region beset by Syria’s 12-year civil war and refugee crisis.
Survivors cried out for help from within mountains of debris as first responders contended with rain and snow. Seismic activity continued to rattle the region, including another jolt nearly as powerful as the initial quake. Workers carefully pulled away slabs of concrete and reached for bodies as desperate families waited for news of loved ones.
The quake, which was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, sent residents of Damascus and Beirut rushing into the street and was felt as far away as Cairo.
It piled more misery on a region that has seen tremendous suffering over the past decade. On the Syrian side, the area is divided between government-controlled territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces. Turkey, meanwhile, is home to millions of refugees from the civil war.

27-30 January
Erdogan says Turkey may accept Finland in NATO, but block Sweden
Turkey and Hungary are the only members of the 30-nation alliance yet to approve the Nordic nations’ application.
Erdogan was speaking just days after Ankara suspended NATO accession talks with the two countries after a protest in Stockholm in which a far-right politician burned a copy of the Quran.
Burning of Qur’an in Stockholm funded by journalist with Kremlin ties
Permit for demonstration at which anti-Islam provocateur burned Muslim holy book was paid for by far-right journalist linked to Moscow-backed media
The holy book was set alight last Saturday near Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm by a far-right politician and anti-Islam provocateur, Rasmus Paludan, a dual Danish-Swedish national, with a reputation for carrying out similar acts.
Swedish media have reported that Paludan’s demonstration permit of 320 Swedish krona (£25, $31) was paid for by a former contributor to the Kremlin-backed channel RT, Chang Frick, who now does regular media spots for the far-right Sweden Democrats. Frick has confirmed he paid for the permit to hold the protest, but denied he had asked anyone to burn the Muslim holy book.
What Turkey really wants from Sweden
By Rich Outzen
Turkish elections loom large in the current impasse. PKK supporters say they are using protests to “sabotage” NATO enlargement, prevent Turco-Swedish rapprochement, and damage Erdoğan politically prior to the elections. This political warfare is supplemented by Erdoğan opponents in the West, who dismiss Turkish security concerns and amplify narratives that Turkey does not belong in NATO anyway. Only after the election—whether Erdoğan or the opposition wins—are consultations and progress likely to resume.
(Atlantic Council) Turkey continues to favor NATO enlargement—for Ukraine and Georgia as well as Finland and ultimately Sweden—but needs more concrete action on Syria, as well as on anti-Turkish activity within Sweden. Given the atmosphere in Turkey and Sweden created by the recent provocations, further tripartite meetings have been placed on hold. Yet Erdoğan indicated after a late January Turkish National Security Council meeting that progress remains possible, pending steps toward Swedish and Finnish fulfillment of the memorandum. Turkey seems intent on keeping up the pressure to get satisfaction on key concerns, without entirely derailing the process.
Ultimately, aspiring members have to take Ankara’s security demands seriously, and Ankara has a strategic obligation to strengthen and build out the Atlantic alliance. Frustration is evident on both sides at present. The strongest grounds for confidence may be that Ankara truly does benefit from a bigger and stronger NATO, given its many complicated bilateral relations with Western countries and disappointments with stalled European Union accession. Turkey’s critical role in a large, strong NATO is its strongest strategic guarantee. That is why Ankara will opt in the end to approve enlargement, albeit on terms that meet its security red lines.

26 January
Why Erdogan’s Reelection Bid in Turkey Isn’t a Sure Bet
By Selcan Hacaoglu
(Bloomberg) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wields almost unbridled power in Turkey, is seeking another term as president in elections likely to come in May. With the country facing an economic crisis, polls suggest a tight race that could threaten his 20-year rule, the longest in Turkey’s history. Even before a date’s been set, it’s become a rancorous contest. Electoral rules have been rewritten to give Erdogan and his party an edge. And critics say he’s leaning on the courts to disqualify strong competitors and that he’s violating the constitution by running again.
What’s the main election issue?
Erdogan, who will turn 69 on Feb. 26, faces a vote over his increasingly authoritarian leadership after effectively shifting Turkey to an executive presidency with sweeping powers in 2018. Turkey’s opposition parties rarely coordinate strategy, but this time Erdogan faces a serious challenge from a six-party opposition bloc, which includes ex-allies who helped build his political empire. The vote comes as the nation is contending with the worst cost-of-living crisis in two decades. Though Erdogan remains Turkey’s most popular politician, his Justice and Development Party has lost support among the poor, who’ve typically been among its most stalwart backers. Leaders of the opposition bloc promise to run the country through consensus. Erdogan attacks their plan as a recipe for a return to the bickering within coalition governments that produced decades of political and economic instability before he rose to power.
The six-party alliance has yet to declare its candidate for the presidency. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of its biggest party, has put himself forward. In local elections in 2019, Kilicdaroglu led his Republican People’s Party to victory against Erdogan’s party in Turkey’s largest cities. He’s not as popular as the party’s Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul. But in December, Imamoglu was convicted of insulting election officials and his prison sentence of two years and seven months, if upheld on appeal, will ban him from politics. Critics accuse Erdogan of influencing the judiciary to prevent rivals such as Imamoglu from running, an allegation the government has denied.

22-24 January
Erdoğan says Turkey won’t support Sweden’s NATO bid
‘That’s not happening,’ the Turkish president said of Sweden’s NATO bid following protests in Stockholm where a Quran was burned.
Sweden’s NATO bid in trouble after Quran-burning protest
(GZERO Signal) Sweden is scrambling to contain the political fallout from Saturday’s far-right, Quran-burning protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, which triggered rallies near the Swedish consulate in Istanbul. Because the Swedish government had given the go-ahead for the demonstration, Turkey had already canceled planned bilateral talks about Sweden’s NATO bid before the rally. Now, Ankara is condemning the burning of the holy book for Muslims as an Islamophobic hate crime. The incident gives President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fodder for whipping up nationalist sentiment in Turkey ahead of the country’s general election in May or June, as well as extra leverage over other NATO members, all of whom are hoping Ankara relents. The Turks have been using the joint bid by Finland and Sweden to join NATO — which requires unanimous approval — to force the two countries to tighten laws that allow Turkish and Kurdish dissidents to go there. Erdogan is now expected to further delay his consent — perhaps until after the election.
Turkey condemns burning of Qur’an during far-right protest in Sweden
Event in front of Turkish embassy will further inflame tensions between two countries
14 January
Turkey pushes back vote on Sweden and Finland’s Nato accession
Ratification will have to wait at least until after elections in May or June, says senior official

19 January
Turkey could be on the brink of dictatorship
President Erdogan could tip his country over the edge
(The Economist) Turkey has NATO’s second-biggest armed forces. It plays a crucial role in a turbulent neighbourhood, especially in war-scorched Syria. It exerts growing influence in the western Balkans, in the eastern Mediterranean and more recently in Africa. Above all, it is important in the Black Sea and in Russia’s war in Ukraine; last year it helped broker a deal to let more Ukrainian grain be shipped to a hungry world.
So outsiders should pay attention to Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, which Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested this week will be held on May 14th. All the more so since, under its increasingly erratic president, the country is on the brink of disaster. Mr Erdogan’s behaviour as the election approaches could push what is today a deeply flawed democracy over the edge into a full-blown dictatorship.

18 January
Turkey urges Biden administration to be ‘decisive’ over F-16 deal as Congress objects
Turkish foreign minister in Washington in first official visit
Ankara wants to buy F-16 fighter jets, Congress not supportive
Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid, Syria top the agenda
(Reuters) Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Washington he had told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Turkey dropping its objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO should not be a precondition for the F-16 sale.
The Biden administration has expressed its support for the sale of the jets to Turkey, despite opposition from Congress over Ankara’s problematic human rights record and Syria policy, as it seeks to keep NATO unity in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Recently, Ankara’s refusal to ratify the NATO membership of Sweden and Finland has become more central to Congress’ opposition.

17 January
In the Global Resistance to Autocracy, Turkey’s Boğaziçi University Faculty Deserves Pride of Place
(Just Security) The faculty at Boğaziçi has earned a rightful place in the fellowship of those standing for democratic governance, cultural pluralism, tolerance, primacy of merit over loyalty, scholarship over dogma. They deserve recognition beyond the few liberal media outlets in Turkey and the academic world. If they lose their fight, it would bring Turkey another giant step closer to the camp of the autocrats.
For the upcoming elections, Erdoğan relies on other like-minded rulers to ensure an outcome in his favor. The financial assistance he receives from what he terms as “friendly” countries, including Azerbaijan, China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, help him sustain his spending largesse to win votes. Among this cohort of autocrats, Erdoğan’s close relations with Putin stand out despite his professed claim to be keeping a “balanced approach” to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in his address to the joint session of the U. S. Congress on Dec. 21, drew a parallel between Ukraine’s defense against Russia and the defense of democracy against autocracy. Indeed, Ukraine’s struggle can be seen as occupying one extreme — in its intensity and blood sacrifice — of a wide spectrum of battles; varying in degree, method, or immediate objectives, but they are fought for the same common idea of upholding the rule of law and democratic values against the onslaught of authoritarianism.

16 January
Sweden, Finland must send up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey for NATO bid
(Reuters) – Sweden and Finland must deport or extradite up to 130 “terrorists” to Turkey before the Turkish parliament will approve their bids to join NATO, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Turkey has said Sweden in particular must first take a clearer stance against what it sees as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants and a group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the protest was an act of sabotage against his country’s Nato application, and dangerous for Sweden’s national security. … But a member of the pro-Kurdish group behind the stunt told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the activists were trying to stand up for Swedish democracy – which was being “sabotaged” by Mr Kristersson.
Who are ‘terrorists’ Turkey wants from Sweden and Finland?
(BBC) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sweden had promised to extradite 73 “terrorists” and had already sent three or four of them. Pro-government Turkish daily Hurriyet published a list of 45 people, including 33 sought from Sweden and 12 from Finland.
Barriers to extradition
Legal requirements in Sweden and Finland make it very hard for Turkey to extradite the kind of numbers it wants:
An independent court has the final say on extradition – not politicians
Citizens of neither Sweden nor Finland can be extradited
Foreign nationals can be extradited – but only if in line with the European Convention on Extradition
Extradition is not allowed for political crimes or to countries where people risk persecution
Alleged offences must be seen as a crime in Sweden or Finland.
According to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, of the 33 Swedish names listed in Turkish media, 19 have already been rejected for extradition by Stockholm’s Supreme Court.
“We cannot go through earlier cases that have already been processed,” said Chief Justice Anders Eka. (5 July 2022)

13 January
Hanged Erdogan effigy protest in Sweden angers Turkey
(BBC) Images of the hanged effigy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan near Stockholm City Hall were published on Wednesday by a pro-Kurdish group called the Swedish Solidarity Committee for Rojava. …
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed the stunt on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia – both of which Ankara calls terror groups.

2 January
Erdoğan plots war, crackdown to save his skin
The Turkish leader is using every trick in the autocrat’s book to snatch reelection.
(Politico Eu) Having crashed the Turkish economy and impoverished the middle class that he himself had enriched, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now dragging his country toward an unnecessary war and manipulating the courts against his rivals.
Despite opposition from both Washington and Moscow, Erdoğan has trumpeted preparations to send tanks into Syria, looking to dislodge Kurdish militias allied with the West in the fight against Islamic State militants, but that Ankara sees as linked to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas. He seems determined to complete a buffer zone on the other side of Turkey’s southern border.
Meanwhile, the Turkish president is also threatening to strike NATO ally Greece amid manufactured disputes over gas drilling, Cyprus, and the alleged “militarization” of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea — although the international economic and political cost of any such action makes it highly improbable.
It’s a ruthless drive by Erdoğan to cling to power in 2023 — the centenary of the Turkish Republic — and let’s hope he fails.
According to the polls, Erdoğan — who has ruled with an increasingly autocratic hand after amending the constitution to create a made-to-measure presidential system — is in serious political trouble, with the AKP barely receiving 30 percent support.
Of course, his response has been characteristically brutal on both the domestic and international fronts.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm