Turkey

Turkey by Alistair Galloway

President Erdogan claimed a victory in the Turkish referendum, designed to alter the constitution to drastically increase the president’s power in the country, though opposition parties have demanded a recount. A report from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe found that up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in the referendum. The European Union has decided not to suspend Turkey’s bid to join the EU. Several prominent European politicians have spoken out in favor of suspending Turkey’s membership talks, a move that would freeze the annual payment of approximately 650 million USD of EU pre- accession funds to Turkey. For some EU member states, the last threshold to end membership talks with Turkey would be Ankara’s reinstatement of the death penalty, something that has been discussed since Erdogan’s referendum victory. The Turkish government blocked Wikipedia in the country, stating that Wikipedia refused to remove content that suggested Turkey was in cooperation with “terror groups”. Turkish authorities arrested more than 1,000 people throughout the country for suspected ties to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. At least 38 people were arrested following protests throughout Turkey against the referendum’s passing vote. According to US officials, Turkey gave coalition forces “about 20 minutes notice” before launching airstrikes on Kurdish troops in Syria, potentially putting American and other coalition forces in the area at risk. Turkey’s central bank has continued to tighten monetary conditions by raising its liquidity lending rate to its highest level since 2015. Consumer price growth has reached its highest point in the country since 2008. 

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

Turkish Parliament passed the constitutional reform package set to give President Erdogan expanded power. UK Prime Minister Theresa May visited Turkey on 27 January, to discuss potential trade agreements. May also responded sternly to the actions of the Turkish government following the failed July 2016 coup. The Turkish government called on United States (US) President Donald Trump, to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish forces if the US wants to continue its strategic partnership with Turkey. The government also issued statements threatening the US’s use of a key strategic airbase in Turkey. President Erdogan stated that Turkey will only withdraw troops from Northern Cyprus if Greece reciprocates the move by withdrawing some of its own troops. Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed to jointly monitor the ceasefire in Syria. Turkey and Russia conducted their first joint airstrikes against Islamic State (IS), marking a highly rare military partnership between Russia and a NATO member. Turkish jets and tanks hit 100 IS targets in Syria. The suspect behind the New Year’s Eve nightclub attack in Istanbul was captured, following a two-week manhunt. The Turkish tourism industry has suffered following a string of extremist attacks and political uncertainty in the country. According to the Financial Times, Turkey is closer to a full-blown currency crisis than at any point since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002.

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

A constitutional amendment will reportedly be put forward to give more power to the Turkish president with the potential of a referendum in spring of 2017. The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated during a speech on 19 December 2016. The assassin was heard yelling “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria” as he fired at the ambassador. Russia and Turkey agreed on a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, which will exclude areas of Syria in which both or either country is fighting terrorist organisations. Following the assassination of Russian Ambassador Karlov, widespread reports of internet blackouts and blockages came from throughout Turkey. The Turkish government is reportedly investigating 10,000 internet users on suspicion of using social media to aid terrorist efforts. 39 people were killed in an attack on an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve. Turkish President Erdogan has blamed the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) for a blast in Kayseri that killed 13 soldiers. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for twin explosions at a football stadium in Istanbul that killed 44 people. The dollarisation risk for the Turkish economy has reportedly eased. Turkey’s banking supervisory and regulatory framework has been found up to the standards of the European Union (EU). The Turkish government stated that in 2017, it will introduce a stimulus package of up to $71 billion aimed at creating 600,000 new jobs in the public sector. The Financial Stability Committee met to discuss the private sector’s management of foreign exchange risks. Turkey’s trade deficit shrank by 11.7 per cent during 2016.

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced that it will introduce a bill to parliament that will include a new constitution and a shift to a presidential system. Turkey announced that it has extended its state of emergency by another three months, and continues to detain suspected PKK sympathisers. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that Turkey and Russia have different views on the future of the Syrian government. President Erdogan pledged Turkey’s continued involvement in Syria and Iraq. Turkey and Russia signed an agreement that the construction of a gas pipeline was back on, signalling normalized relations between Ankara and Moscow. Tensions and conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government have continued to rise. Cavusoglu also claimed that Turkey is being targeted by multiple terror groups. The United States (U.S.) government ordered the families of those working at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul to depart the area. October marked the second consecutive month that inflation of the Turkish Lira (TRY) has slowed, but many forecast that the inflation rate will climb again before the end of the year. The government’s reaction to the July coup has discouraged foreign investment in Turkey, putting the Turkish economy in danger. Moody’s Investors Service lowered Turkey’s rating to a non-investment grade. Turkish economic growth remained strong when compared to the global average, but it has been slowing over the year, and some projections expect the growth rate to continue to decrease. The value of the Turkish Lira continued to fall, and reached a record low on 17 October.

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Turkey by Alistair Galloway

September was another month impacted by post-coup arrests and dismissals of public officials. Large numbers of judges and prosecutors were dismissed along with members of the air force and the national security service. The grip is tightened around the Kurds too, as over 11,000 teachers were fired and 20 TV and radio channels were ordered to close due to their alleged ties to the PKK and their views. Fifty people were wounded by a car bomb blast in Van, 12 September. As Turkey announced their border to Syria secure from Islamic State (IS) militants, they opened up for the possibility of having it be a no-fly zone to host Syrian refugees. Needing cooperation with both Russia and USA it seems unlikely, but Turkey has suggested its wiliness to cooperate with Russia in Syria. In economic news Turkey pledged $3.4 billion to reconstruct the Southeast, Moody’s downgraded Turkish sovereign debt rating to ‘junk’ as a result of the post-coup climate and the Turkish stream pipeline moved closer to fruition, as Russo-Turkish relations are amiable.

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

August was a tense month as the failed coup crackdown continued. United States (US)-Turkish relations strained as calls for Fethullah Gulen to be extradited from the US were denied. Amidst these calls, police raided 44 companies suspected of financing Gulen. Tension arose between the European Union (EU) and Turkey as well as the visa-free travel has not yet been approved. Austrian and Swedish criticism towards Turkey was answered in kind, leaving relations sour and the migrant deal on thin ice. A boy suicide bomber allegedly linked to the Islamic State (IS) killed 54 people at a wedding in Gazantiep, whilst 12 Turkish tanks entered Syria. Despite calls for Kurdish militia to withdraw, clashes ensued but a ‘ceasefire’ was reportedly established, however, actors on both sides deny this. The US announced it was moving nuclear weapons from Turkey to Romania as a result of deteriorated relations and proximity to the Syrian conflict. In the economy, the interest rate was cut further in hopes to boost lending and thereby consumption-led growth. Two vessels collided in the Bosphorus and the new Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge was opened. 

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

The most defining event of July was the failed coup d’état that occurred on the evening of 15 July. The coup attempt was led by a military faction, who vowed to 'protect democracy from President Erdogan; however, the coup ultimately failed due to a lack of support among the public and military. The failed coup led to a strong crackdown against educators, police, armed forces, and the media. A three-month state of emergency was declared, granting President Erdogan additional powers. The army has lost influence and over 15,000 people have been detained as a result of the coup attempt. It is believed that the coup attempt was led by army defectors who were alleged supporters of Fetullah Gulen, a United States (US)-based cleric; however, Gulen has denied these claims. WikiLeaks published the first 300,000 of their emails from the incumbent AK Party’s mailboxes. The Baghdad bombings may improve Turkish-Iraqi relations. Turkey has closed additional border locations to curb the flow of terrorists into Syria. The attempted coup has had serious consequences for financial markets in Turkey. Tourism reached a historic low, but the return of Russian tourists may generate some revenue. 

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

June was characterised by the ongoing security struggle between the Turkish state, The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Daesh. Two attacks in Istanbul, one against a police bus on 7 June and the attack against Ataturk international airport on 28 June killed a total of 11 and 36 respectively, and injured over 200 others. Turkey continued their aerial operations against both PKK and Daesh targets in Syria and Iraq. A new bill was introduced to provide security forces with immunity during terror operations. European Union (EU)-Turkey relations were strained as a result of Turkey failing to meet EU’s criteria on June 15, but German MPs’ approval of a resolution calling the Ottoman actions in Armenia during the First World War as ‘genocide’ caused significant tension in both Turkey and Germany, home to 3.5 million Turks. Russo-Turkish relations are becoming more amicable following an official apology for the downing of a Russian jet in November 2015. In economic affairs, Turkey banned the sale of fertilisers containing ammonium nitrate in a bid to decrease the amount of explosives used in attacks against the state and civilians. 

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

Domestic politics have been at the forefront during May, as the controversial bill removing Members of Parliaments' (MPs) immunity from prosecution was passed on 20 May. Earlier in the month, on 6 May, Prime Minister Davutoglu resigned due to a non-convergence of views with President Erdogan. His successor, former Transport Minister, Yildirim, was an expected choice, adding to Erdogan’s loyalists in the Turkish government. Turkey and the European Union (EU) are still in discussion about the possibility of removing, but according to Angela Merkel, meeting 67 of 72 conditions is not enough. Domestic security operations in the southeast have continued throughout May, with air strikes at Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Daesh positions being met with increased vehicle bombs, armed clashes between security forces and PKK, and cross-border fire from Syria. In economic affairs, tourism continued to struggle, and this may become more apparent as Turkey moves into the tourism high season. In an attempt to increase energy security and reduce dependence on Russian natural gas, a new deal between Israel and Turkey is underway. However, it is expected that Russia will work hard to oppose this deal, as a new pipeline from Israel to Cyprus is being planned. 

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Turkey by Lewis McKinnon

April was another turbulent month for Turkey, as the continued struggle to contain the Kudistan Workers’ Party (PKK) led to a large number of casualties on both sides. The PKK vowed to intensify their fight inside Turkish territory. Similarly, the campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq had some progress, but over 100,000 Syrians were trapped between the frontline and the Turkish border. Turkey continued to arrest opponents of the government, arresting over 100 allegedly linked to the so-called ‘Gülen movement’. Furthermore, Turkey continued to challenge European freedoms by calling for the prosecution of the German Satirist Jan Boehmermann due to his mocking poem of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Overcoming such issues will be necessary for Turkey to meet the 72 criterion for visa-free travel inside Schengen and to continue the EU-Turkey deal of returning migrants to Turkey. In contrast, Turkey converged with Qatar on military and economic issues – prompting cooperation in both realms. 

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