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Violent skirmishes erupted in buffer zone between Turkish Cypriots and UN personnel, injuring multiple peacekeepers and Turkish Cypriot police officers and sparking diplomatic furore.
Turkish Cypriots and UN peacekeepers clashed, triggering diplomatic spat. Turkish Cypriots 17 Aug began constructing road to connect village of Pile/Pyla, located within UN controlled demilitarised zone known as Green Line, to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), citing humanitarian reasons. “TRNC” police and construction crews next day approached Green Line where UN peacekeepers bolstered presence with civilian vehicles to prevent construction; construction workers used excavators and physical force to disperse UN troops, leading to skirmishes that harmed at least three peacekeepers and eight Turkish Cypriot police officers. Incident sparked stern diplomatic responses. Notably, Greek PM Kyriákos Mitsotákis 18 Aug denounced Turkish Cypriot actions as “unacceptable”, while “TRNC” and Türkiye same day condemned UN personnel, claiming peacekeepers wrongfully intervened in humanitarian project. Although Russia next day vetoed UN Security Council resolution introduced by UK against actions of Turkish Cypriots, UN Sec Gen along with several embassies, including UK, U.S., EU and China, condemned “TRNC’s” actions. U.S. senator Robert Menendez 24 Aug visited Republic of Cyprus where he described Turkish Cypriot actions as unacceptable violation of international law.
Prospects for relaunching formal talks remained dim. Before buffer zone incident, Republic of Cyprus defence minister 6 Aug repeated that President Christodoulides is focussed on lifting deadlock and welcomes negotiations under UN auspices with active EU engagement. “TRNC” leader Ersin Tatar 11 Aug rejected Christodoulides’ proposal for joint meeting with UN Assistant Sec Gen Miroslav Jenča, who visited island 27-29 Aug, preferring to hold separate meeting on 28 Aug. Meanwhile, after U.S. 18 Aug announced it would continue to lift for another year arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus – imposed in 1987 and first lifted in 2021 – “TRNC” same day expressed concern over “upsetting the delicate balance on the island”; “TRNC” also described docking of U.S. destroyer USS Ramage at Limassol port on 17 Aug as “worrying”.
Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates – principally in Iraq and Syria – while govt sought improved ties with Greece and EU, and tensions surfaced with Russia in Black Sea.
Military intensified strikes in Iraq and Syria. In northern Iraq, military stepped up strikes (see Iraq): notably, clashes between military and PKK in Zap region 9-10 Aug killed at least six Turkish soldiers; retaliatory Turkish air strikes 10 Aug killed at least four PKK operatives. Turkish FM Hakan Fidan 21-24 August visited Iraqi capital Baghdad and Erbil, met with local and national authorities. In northern Syria, military predominantly struck Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and PKK-linked militants, “neutralising” dozens: notably, drone 4 Aug struck Syrian regime position in northern Aleppo and SDF vehicle near Qamishli, killing four. In Türkiye, security forces 3 Aug captured two alleged PKK members in Istanbul and 22 Aug captured seven in Edirne city.
Ties with Greece and EU showed signs of improvement. Greek FM Giorgos Gerapetritis 3 Aug said Athens was “relatively eager” to enhance relations and political dialogue. After years of strained relations, govt 7 Aug announced plan to improve bilateral trade and economic relations with EU; FM Hakan Fidan same day defined obstruction of Türkiye’s EU membership as “strategic blindness” and asserted “without Türkiye, the EU would never be a truly global actor”. Skirmishes erupted between Turkish Cypriots and UN peacekeepers (see Cyprus).
Tensions with Russia surfaced in Black Sea. Amid intense diplomacy to revive Black Sea grain deal, President Erdoğan and Russian President Putin 2 Aug held phone call to discuss possible avenues for cooperation. Russian navy 15 Aug fired warning shots and raided Palau-flagged Turkish ship near Romanian waters. Ankara 17 Aug announced it had warned Russia against moves “which could escalate tensions in the Black Sea”; Moscow claimed ship had failed to respond to demands to halt.
Anti-Islamic State (ISIS) operations continued. Security forces during Aug detained at least 45 individuals with alleged links to ISIS; notably, security units 10 Aug arrested three ISIS members allegedly readying attack in northern Syria.
As UN continued efforts to find common ground, Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot leadership voiced support for differing solution models.
UN continued engagement to foster dialogue. UN Sec Gen António Guterres 5 July asserted that positive shift in Greece-Türkiye relations was opportunity for settlement in Cyprus. UN 7 July adopted two reports, namely Secretary General’s Report on His Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus, and Secretary General’s Report on UN Mission in Cyprus. In former, Guterres stated “the absence of substantive dialogue continues to deepen the difference of views on the way forward”. In latter, Guterres urged parties to return to negotiations, adding that further economic integration between two sides was needed; he also called upon Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to cease antagonistic rhetoric. Meanwhile, Republic of Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 18 July visited anthropological laboratory of Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, agreed to meet again at UN General Assembly in Sept. In his 20 July visit to north of island, Turkish President Erdoğan attended opening ceremony of new terminal at Ercan/Tymbou airport, declaring days of airport being used for international flights were “not far off”.
Parties articulated alternative visions of solution. In response to UN Security Council press statement 10 July that articulated “goal of returning to formal negotiations based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation”, “TRNC” 12 July said statement was “unfortunate and unrealistic” and asserted its support for two-state solution; Türkiye next day voiced support for “TRNC”’s position, adding that Turkish Cypriots no longer sought outdated solution model, referring to federation. Republic of Cyprus and Greece during month, however, rejected two-state formula: notably, Republic of Cyprus Defence Minister Michalis Giorgallas 2 July said that Turkish narrative for two state solution cannot be part of any discussion in new negotiations, while Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 31 July said “any partitionist thoughts of two states is completely off any agenda”.
Security forces struck Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), primarily in northern Iraq and northern Syria, while govt invested diplomatic capital in improving ties with Greece, Egypt and Gulf states.
Military continued operations against PKK. Hostilities remained concentrated in northern Iraq and northern Syria. Notably in Iraq, clashes with PKK 9 July killed two Turkish soldiers, while forces claimed to “neutralise” (arrest or kill) several high-ranking PKK members, including alleged PKK mastermind of 2019 assassination of Turkish diplomat on 5 July, PKK’s special forces chief on 13 July, member of PKK’s regional administrative council on 16 July. Violence within Türkiye remained limited, as military carried out operations in rural areas of Şırnak and Hakkari provinces. Interior ministry 26 July said security forces had apprehended two PKK members in Istanbul allegedly plotting “sensational attack”.
Dialogue with Greece regained forward momentum. Having concluded respective elections, Ankara and Athens reiterated willingness to cooperate. Greek FM Giorgos Gerapetritis 4 July announced readiness to start talks on resolving long-standing issues in Aegean dispute. Defence Minister Yaşar Güler and Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias next day held phone call in which both sides agreed on restarting contacts for confidence-building measures. President Erdoğan and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 11-12 July agreed to foster “positive momentum”, pledged to “activate multiple channels of communication” and to schedule High-Level Cooperation Council meeting in Greece this year. In response to wildfires on Greek island Rhodes, Türkiye 21 July sent three firefighting aircraft.
Govt sought to mend fences across region and beyond. Türkiye and Egypt 4 July realised pledges to reinstate ambassadorial representation. During Gulf visit, Erdoğan 17-21 July signed trade, investment and security deals which notably included record-breaking defence deal with Saudi Arabia, and issued declaration with Qatar and United Arab Emirates to enhance bilateral relations. Russian President Putin 8 July cancelled state visit to Türkiye, citing Erdoğan’s decisions during visit by Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to release prisoners of Ukraine war and cooperate with Kyiv on strategic industries. During NATO Summit, govt agreed to back Sweden’s membership.
Crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) persisted. Security forces during July detained at least 107 individuals with alleged links to ISIS.
Republic of Cyprus continued push to reignite reunification talks with European Union (EU) involvement, while Turkish President Erdoğan reiterated support for two states.
Greek Cypriot leaders sought return to 2017 dialogue, as Türkiye reiterated position. Republic of Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides 7 June expressed readiness to meet with “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) leader Ersin Tatar “even tomorrow” to discuss reunification talks. President of House of Representatives in Republic of Cyprus Annita Demetriou 13 June underscored “the Greek Cypriot side will continue to exert every effort for the resumption of negotiations from where they stopped in Crans Montana [in 2017]”. During his first foreign trip following his re-election, Erdoğan 12 June met Tatar in “TRNC” and reiterated support for two-state solution, adding “Cyprus does not have another 50 years to lose” and urging international community to recognise “TRNC”. In his address to EU parliament next day, Christodoulides continued efforts to involve EU and asserted “EU has every interest and obligation to actively contribute to the final settlement of the Cyprus problem”. European Council 25 June pledged to continue to have “active role” in supporting peace process; Republic of Cyprus FM Constantinos Kombos welcomed inclusion of reference. UN Special Representative Colin Stewart 26 June met Tatar, describing “positive exchange of opinions”.
In other important developments. Spain and Poland suspended their participation on first day of 5-16 June military exercises with Türkiye and “TRNC”-dubbed Anatolian Phoenix naval drills following protest by Republic of Cyprus. News on social media 7 June reported Greek Cypriot man had allegedly attacked Turkish Cypriot woman in holiday resort Ayia Napa in Republic of Cyprus; “TRNC” 5 June denounced “racist attack” and called for justice.
Hostilities intensified most notably in Syria after Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ended four-month unilateral ceasefire, raising spectre of further escalation.
Attacks rose between Türkiye and PKK and its affiliates. PKK 10 June terminated unilateral ceasefire announced in Feb following devastating earthquakes, citing ongoing Turkish operations against group’s members in northern Syria and northern Iraq. Following termination, rate of violence increased, particularly in northern Syria, with risks of further escalation looming (see Syria and Iraq). Notably, PKK-linked People’s Defence Units (YPG) 12 June allegedly launched cross-border rocket attacks into Türkiye’s Kilis province from Syria; in response, Turkish forces next day struck YPG positions. Amid attacks on Turkish bases in Syria, Turkish forces 14 June struck Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian regime positions in Tel Rifaat and Manbij areas, killing at least eight Syrian soldiers, over dozen SDF/YPG fighters and several civilians. In northern Iraq, PKK blamed Türkiye for killing of PKK member in Sulaymaniyah 9 June; IED explosion 12 June killed two Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq.
Security forces continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS). Turkish security forces during June detained at least 90 individuals with alleged links to ISIS. Notably, security forces in Istanbul 10 June detained former Mosul “judge” of group, and 23 June arrested foreign national allegedly plotting attack on Turkish soil.
Ties with Greece remained on even keel. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 7 June said he will work to settle outstanding disputes, including Aegean maritime zones, with President Erdoğan; Mitsotakis 13 June clarified discussion on demilitarised status of eastern Aegean islands was out of question. Defence Minister Yaşar Güler 15 June met Greek counterpart on sidelines of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conference; Erdogan and Mitsotakis will meet on the sidelines of NATO summit in July. After boat carrying migrants 14 June capsized near Greek island Morea, killing at least 79 with hundreds missing, Ankara 16 June called for “fair burden sharing” in refugee problem.
In other important developments. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan 3 June attended Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony in capital Ankara. Erdoğan 15 June called for new “civilian constitution”. Sweden and Ankara held talks on former’s NATO membership bid; Sweden 1 June formally promulgated revised terrorism laws.
Tensions surfaced over Republic of Cyprus military drills with partner countries and property in contested Varosha/Maraş area, amid Republic of Cyprus initiative for greater EU involvement.
Republic of Cyprus held military drills with partner countries. Republic of Cyprus National Guard and Israel 7-11 May conducted military exercises involving jets and helicopters in divided capital Nicosia’s Flight Information Region – part of which is de facto controlled by “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) – and 23 May held similar drills with UK; “TRNC” described operations as “provocation”. Republic of Cyprus 15-18 May held military drills with Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, U.S. and UK during which U.S. destroyer docked at Limassol port, which “TRNC” said “demonstrated once again that [U.S.] is not observing the delicate balance” on island. Republic of Cyprus and France 28 May held aerial exercises off Limassol’s coast.
Ghost resort Varosha/Maraş and energy exploration stoked concern. In response to reports of potentially unlawful property purchases by Turkish Cypriot entrepreneur in fenced-off ghost town Varosha/Maraş in “TRNC”, Republic of Cyprus House of Representatives president 8 May denounced Türkiye’s policy on town to UN Security Council members, European Union (EU) member states and Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile, Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 1 May reiterated support for Turkish Cypriots’ energy rights after Republic of Cyprus late April announced drilling preparations in zone that allegedly overlaps with area licenced by Turkish Petroleum Corporation.
Republic of Cyprus sought France’s involvement, deepened ties with Israel. In meeting with French President Macron on 3 May, Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides said Republic of Cyprus expects France’s support in breaking deadlock; “TRNC” next day dismissed Christodoulides’ initiative for EU involvement and urged Paris to cease arms sales to Republic of Cyprus. UN Special Representative in Cyprus Colin Stewart 15-16 May met separately with Christodoulides and “TRNC” leader Ersin Tatar, said “a very important period” will begin after elections in Türkiye and Greece that could see progress on Cyprus issue. Republic of Cyprus and Israeli defence ministers 5 May discussed “strategic partnership” and Republic of Cyprus energy minister 15 May announced possible natural gas pipeline between two countries.
President Erdoğan prevailed in runoff election, military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates in Türkiye, Iraq and Syria, and Ankara pursued normalisation with Syria and Egypt.
President Erdoğan won runoff election. In 14 May parliamentary and presidential elections, ruling People’s Alliance secured parliamentary majority, but neither incumbent president nor main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu surpassed 50% threshold for presidency. In runoff 28 May, Erdoğan secured presidency with 52%. International election observers called initial poll “mostly peaceful”; unidentified group 7 May attacked Istanbul Mayor and vice-presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu in Erzurum province, injuring 17.
Operations continued against PKK in Türkiye and affiliates abroad. In Türkiye, govt claimed security operation in rural areas of Şırnak province 16 May killed three PKK members, three soldiers and village guard; security forces 22 May detained 23 alleged PKK members suspected of starting forest fires in Mersin and Antalya provinces. In northern Iraq, Turkish intelligence 4 May claimed to have killed PKK’s so-called training officer Ahmet Gümüş and 8 May captured high-ranking PKK member Azime Dursun at Erbil airport; security authorities in Iraq’s Kurdistan region claimed Turkish drone 23 May killed three members of Sinjar Resistance Units (see Iraq). In Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces 5 May said Turkish drone killed two members in Hasakah province (see Syria).
Security forces cracked down on Islamic State (ISIS). Security forces detained at least 127 individuals countrywide with alleged links to ISIS. In northern Syria, ISIS chief Abul-Hassan al-Qurayshi 1 May reportedly detonated suicide vest, killing himself, during Turkish operation to capture him; security forces 10 May captured group’s so-called Türkiye emir, Şahap Variş, in Syria.
Amid engagement with Syria and Egypt, rapprochement with Greece slowed. Turkish and Syrian FMs 10 May held first meeting since 2011 in Russian capital Moscow alongside Russian and Iranian counterparts; FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stressed need for cooperation on terrorism and return of Syrian refugees. Egypt 29 May announced agreement with Ankara on “immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors”. Meanwhile, rapprochement with Greece slowed amid elections in both countries.
Republic of Cyprus pursued initiative to expand EU involvement to reignite talks, while Turkish Cypriots expressed strong opposition; sides continued dialogue under UN auspices.
Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides advanced proposal for active EU role. After Christodoulides visited Belgian capital Brussels in March to propose greater EU involvement in Cyprus issue, Greek Cypriot FM Kombos 2 April explained country is expecting Turkish Cypriots to make next move. Christodoulides 22 April said “everything depends on how Turkey will act” following elections in May (see Türkiye), adding that Ankara’s post-earthquake steps toward rapprochement with West and regional countries, if continued, would pave way for diplomacy over Cyprus. Meanwhile, Christodoulides 5 April visited Egypt to hold talks with President Sisi on Cyprus issue, bilateral ties and energy, signalling country’s desire to enhance regional engagement.
Turkish Cypriots voiced opposition to Christodoulides’ initiative. After foreign ministry of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in March voiced opposition to EU involvement given bloc’s “partial attitude”, de facto FM Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu 5 April said “TRNC” would review diplomatic status of EU’s office in north as well as relations with bloc given EU has not recognised “TRNC”. After Republic of Cyprus and U.S. late March signed partnership deal for cooperation on maritime security and other issues, “TRNC” 1 April condemned deal, saying it served to strengthen armament of Republic of Cyprus. “TRNC” 8 April condemned U.S. for anchoring attack submarine in Republic of Cyprus; Türkiye next day reiterated calls for U.S. to reconsider policies that disrupt balance on island. “TRNC” 27 April condemned Greek Cypriot navigation advisory for drilling preparations in contested economic zone in eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, “TRNC” 1 April deepened cooperation with Türkiye by signing $500mn Financial and Economic Protocol, which includes financial aid as well as funds for new schools, health facilities and national disaster centre.
Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots continued UN-facilitated dialogue. Under auspices of UN peacekeeping force, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot negotiators 11 April met as part of regular dialogue related to bicommunal Technical Committees and issues of shared concern; negotiators 27 April discussed future settlement prospects and Technical Committees.
Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates, country prepared for May elections, and positive atmosphere persisted with Greece amid Ankara’s regional normalisation drive.
Military continued operations against PKK and affiliates. After PKK late March renewed commitment to unilateral ceasefire until 14 May elections, military conducted operations in Van, Iğdır, Şırnak and Diyarbakır provinces as well as northern Syria and Iraq. Notably, police 25 April detained 110 individuals in 21 provinces, including politicians, journalists and artists, allegedly affiliated with PKK. In northern Iraq, Suleimaniya officials 7 April claimed Türkiye carried out drone strike near airport, allegedly targeting Syrian Democratic Forces commander Mazloum Abdi’s convoy (see Iraq). In northern Syria, Turkish defence minister 17 April announced army killed ten People’s Defence Units (YPG)/PKK militants in Aleppo after alleged YPG/PKK attack previous day injured four Turkish soldiers (see Syria).
Authorities prepared for May elections, continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS). Amid heightened political tensions ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 14 May, unknown perpetrators 31 March and 6 April fired shots at opposition party offices in Istanbul and 21 April at ruling AKP office in Adana city. Meanwhile, security forces detained at least 141 individuals with alleged ISIS links.
Atmosphere of good-will persisted with Greece. Greek and Turkish defence ministers 4 April met in Hatay province to discuss earthquake response, aid and future relations. Greece 8 April announced gradual closure of Camp Lavrion – refugee camp that Ankara had described as “PKK training camp”. Greek FM Nicos Dendias 17 April said sides should discuss “sharing potentially profitable energy projects instead of fighting over them.”
Govt continued regional normalisation efforts. Deputy FMs of Russia, Türkiye, Syria and Iran 3-4 April met in Russian capital Moscow to advance Turkish-Syrian rapprochement; defence ministers and intelligence chiefs of four countries 25 April resumed talks in Moscow on security in Syria, Ankara-Damascus normalisation and Syrian refugees in Türkiye. FM Çavuşoğlu 25 April said Turkish forces will not withdraw from Syria unless terrorist threats are eliminated. Egyptian and Turkish FMs 13 April agreed to reopen embassies and organise presidential summit.
Republic of Cyprus sought to kickstart moribund dialogue with Turkish Cypriots via greater European Union (EU) involvement, as sides reiterated long-held positions.
Republic of Cyprus began efforts to reignite talks, seeking federation solution. Following his election in Feb, Republic of Cyprus President Christodoulides 22 March travelled to Belgian capital Brussels for European Council Summit where he presented his proposal for more active EU involvement in Cyprus issue to presidents of three main EU institutions and UN Sec-Gen António Guterres. Christodoulides next day remarked that talks should resume “from where they left off in Crans-Montana” and announced that Republic of Cyprus and EU agreed to lay groundwork for resuming dialogue immediately after 14 May Turkish elections (see Türkiye). Earlier, Republic of Cyprus FM Constantinos Kombos 9 March remarked that state “will never accept a divisionary solution or a two-state solution”, and drew attention to Turkish activity in ghost resort town Varosha/Maraş, warning “any development other than the transfer of Varosha under UN administration” would be illegal. Republic of Cyprus Defence Minister Michalis Giorgallas 12 March said Türkiye’s “persistence and expansionist aspirations” are holding back resolution and urged Ankara to demonstrate “required will” for talks. Meanwhile, Christodoulides 10 March pledged to increase military spending to 2% of GDP, citing need to “bolster deterrent capabilities”; pledge followed end of U.S. arms embargo in Sept 2022.
Turkish Cypriots reiterated desire for two-state solution. “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) leader Ersin Tatar 6 March reiterated aim of two-state solution, asserting “TRNC will never accept an agreement that would make the Turkish Cypriot people a minority”. Tatar 15 March stated that he would “never accept the EU becoming involved in the Cyprus issue”. Earlier, Tatar 1 March announced nearly 5,000 Turkish earthquake victims had arrived in “TRNC”, prompting concern among Greek Cypriots about increased population of settlers in north.
Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after group had pledged in Feb to halt military actions in Türkiye, parties prepared for May elections, and tensions eased with Greece.
Military continued operations against PKK. After PKK pledged to “stop military actions in Türkiye” in Feb following earthquakes, Turkish security forces claimed to have killed and captured numerous PKK militants during March in Mardin, Tunceli, Şırnak, Şanlıurfa and Konya provinces. In northern Iraq, Turkish drone strike 1 March killed another PKK-linked senior militant and his guard near Sinjar (see Iraq).
Parties prepared for elections in May. Authorities set parliamentary and presidential elections for 14 May. Six-party opposition alliance 6 March named Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as its joint presidential candidate, while second biggest opposition alliance, formed by six left-wing parties, decided not to field candidate, tacitly supporting Kılıçdaroğlu. Constitutional Court 9 March unfroze funds of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); fearing ban from politics as authorities pursue closure case against it, HDP decided to enter election under “Green Left Party”.
Atmosphere of good-will persisted between govt and Greece. Amid increased diplomatic contact between Ankara and Athens following earthquakes, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 13 March observed “de-escalation and a more positive attitude and behaviour” after “a long period of unacceptable provocation”. Greek and Turkish defence ministers 9 March held call, reiterating commitment to positive atmosphere. After meeting FM Cavusoglu 20 March, Greek FM Nikos Dendias announced Türkiye will support Greece’s bid to become non-permanent member of UN Security Council in 2025-2026, while Greece will support Türkiye’s bid for post of secretary general of International Maritime Organisation. Govt and Greece 22 March held fourth meeting for Positive Agenda in Ankara, announcing progress on 25 agenda topics.
In other important developments. Death toll of devastating earthquakes 23 March rose above 50,000, as damage likely exceeded $100bn. Security forces during month detained around 100 individuals with alleged links to Islamic State. In sign of thawing ties, FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 18 March visited Egyptian capital Cairo in first such visit in decade. Parliament 30 March ratified Finland’s NATO membership.
Republic of Cyprus elected new president who pledged reunification of island and held first informal meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader.
New Republic of Cyprus president met Turkish Cypriot leader. Former FM Nikos Christodoulides 12 Feb won Greek Cypriot run-off presidential elections against left-wing contender Andreas Mavroyiannis (51.9% to 48.1%). During inauguration speech, Christodoulides remarked “my biggest concern is the end of the Turkish occupation and the reunification of our homeland”, adding “I will do everything to break the deadlock, to restart the dialogue”. In first informal meeting following his election, Christodoulides 23 Feb met Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in UN buffer zone in Nicosia; after encounter, Tatar said formal return to talks will require recognition of Turkish Cypriot sovereignty, while Christodoulides remarked he did not hear anything unexpected.
Tensions continued between sides prior to presidential poll. Outgoing Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 2 Feb visited Greece, thanking Greek PM Mitsotakis for “support in containing Turkish revisionism”. Turkish FM Fuat Oktay 3 Feb referred to “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” as “Turkish Cypriot Republic”, urged UN Security Council to recognise north as having “equal international status” with Republic of Cyprus; Oktay also claimed UN peacekeeping mission has “no humanitarian, diplomatic, or legal value”. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 4 Feb reiterated “sovereign equality” of “Turkish Cypriot Republic”.
Deadly earthquakes wreaked unprecedented destruction, spurring international response; Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) announced conditional ceasefire as hostilities persisted in Syria and Iraq.
Earthquakes killed tens of thousands, unleashed humanitarian crisis. In deadliest natural disaster in republic’s almost 100-year history, two major earthquakes 6 Feb rocked 11 southern provinces, killing over 40,000 people, injuring over 100,000, collapsing or damaging 100,000 buildings, and displacing up to 1.5mn people. Earthquakes galvanised international support: notably, more than 75 countries dispatched over 10,000 rescue workers and, alongside other high-level officials, NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 15-16 Feb and U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 19-20 Feb visited affected areas. Facing public criticism over its earthquake response and allegations of malpractice in construction sector, govt 8 Feb reportedly briefly restricted access to Twitter and detained some individuals voicing criticism, while ruling party officials reportedly raised prospect of delaying May elections. Social media users and far-right politicians framed Syrian refugees as “looters” amid reports of sporadic law and order breakdown in some areas.
PKK announced unilateral ceasefire in Türkiye. Following earthquakes, one of PKK’s leaders Cemil Bayık 9 Feb announced cessation of hostilities within country, conditional on military not attacking group; month witnessed no military operations against PKK in country following announcement. Authorities 25 Feb arrested PKK militant in Konya province who was allegedly waiting for orders to carry out sensational attack. Hostilities persisted elsewhere: Turkish forces continued operations in northern Iraq, while northern Syria witnessed slight reduction in fighting, notwithstanding several drone strikes (see Iraq and Syria).
Tensions eased with Greece following disaster. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 12 Feb visited earthquake-affected areas with FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu; Dendias pledged continued support, while Çavuşoğlu said both countries should not “wait for another disaster to hit … to restore their relations”, adding that their solidarity following earthquakes will be decisive in “opening a new page” in relations.
Authorities arrested Islamic State (ISIS) suspects. Authorities detained some 95 individuals with alleged links to ISIS countrywide. Notably, police 4 Feb detained 15 suspects in Istanbul with alleged instructions to carry out attacks in city in retaliation to Quran-burning incidents in Jan.
Republic of Cyprus sought German mediation for Cyprus issue amid bleak prospects of resolution, while UN Security Council renewed peacekeeping mandate.
UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 3 Jan reported to UN Security Council that harsh rhetoric and “a significant hardening of positions” posed obstacle to dialogue and reconciliation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; UN Security Council 30 Jan renewed UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for one year. Meanwhile, Republic of Cyprus FM Ioannis Kasoulides 10 Jan said he asked Germany to act as mediator on Cyprus question; German FM Annalena Baerbock previous day said that two-state solution “cannot be an option for Cyprus”. Echoing Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s 1 Jan remark that “federation talks are over and … two-state politics is settling in”, de facto foreign ministry of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) 13 Jan stated “no common ground” existed between two sides and UN must recognise “current realities on the island”. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 15 Jan said country will continue to seek “liberation and reunification” of island despite threats and challenges. Türkiye’s VP Fuat Oktay 17 Jan said Türkiye will continue to fight for solution in Cyprus based on sovereign equality of two entities.
Govt continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates as well as Syrian govt positions in northern Syria, while tensions with Greece remained elevated.
Military continued operations in south-eastern Türkiye, northern Syria and northern Iraq. Operations against PKK continued in rural areas of Diyarbakır, Bingöl, Muş and Batman provinces, while military continued airstrikes against militants in northern Iraq and Syria; presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın 14 Jan asserted ground operation into Syria was “possible any time”. As military shelled Syrian govt positions, Ankara signalled openness to normalise ties with regime (see Syria); after Syrian FM 14 Jan said Türkiye had to end its “occupation” of Syria to normalise relations, senior Turkish official 18 Jan said everything could be negotiated, including total or partial withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria.
Tensions with Greece remained elevated. Greek coast guard 5 Jan said one of its patrol boats fired warning shots to deter Turkish coast guard vessel trying to ram it in eastern Aegean sea. Greek media 8 Jan reported that Turkish UAV violated Greek airspace by flying over island of Kandeliousa. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 12 Jan called for European Union import ban on fish from Türkiye due to what he referred to as illegal fishing practices by Turkish vessels in Greek territorial waters. Greek PM Mitsotakis 19 Jan said two countries can “resolve differences”, while President Erdoğan 20 Jan responded “as long as you act wisely, we have no thought of attacking Athens”. As Greek news reports indicated Athens was planning to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles south of island of Crete, Turkish officials voiced opposition.
Erdoğan announced elections for May, authorities arrested suspected Islamic State (ISIS)-linked individuals. Erdoğan 18 Jan said presidential and parliamentary elections would take place on 14 May; date yet to be confirmed. Constitutional Court 5 Jan blocked bank accounts of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), depriving party of receiving election grants from treasury. Police detained some 80 individuals with alleged links to ISIS, primarily foreigners. Meanwhile, govt condemned Quran-burning incident at protest in Sweden; govt yet to ratify Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.
Tensions between Republic of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot leaders persisted.
Disputes over UN peacekeeping force and energy exploration continued. Turkish Cypriot FM Ertuğruloğlu 8 Dec reiterated that “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) will continue to allow UN peacekeeping force “on its territory” only if “mutually acceptable legal arrangement between the two parties” is concluded. Hydrocarbon exploration remained contentious: Republic of Cyprus’s energy ministry 21 Dec announced that consortium of French and Italian energy companies found more natural gas off Cyprus; “TRNC” next day dismissed legitimacy of Republic of Cyprus-claimed Exclusive Economic Zone and asserted exploration activities “coincide with the continental shelf of [Türkiye]”, while Türkiye 23 Dec said Republic of Cyprus’s hydrocarbon activities threatened peace and stability in eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 22 Dec hinted progress on peace settlement may materialise once Turkish President Erdoğan leaves office and next day said “national dignity” cannot accept any solution ensuring permanent presence of Türkiye in Cyprus.
Govt continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian affiliate amid threat of ground operation in Syria, while tensions with Greece remained elevated.
Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-linked militants. Security operations, including drone strikes targeting upper echelons of PKK and its Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), continued in both northern Syria and northern Iraq, albeit at lower intensity than in Nov (see Syria). Amid ongoing concern that Ankara remains intent on new ground incursion into northern Syria, possibly aimed at YPG-held town Tal Rıfat, west of Euphrates River, President Erdoğan 11 Dec requested Moscow to prioritise withdrawal of PKK/YPG elements from 30km border strip and 26 Dec said Türkiye will “enter a new phase of struggle that will destroy [their] entire infrastructure and resources”. In south eastern Türkiye, car bomb attack in majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakır 16 Dec injured eight police officers and one civilian.
Maritime tensions with Greece continued despite dialogue. National Security Council 1 Dec announced it expected Greece to immediately demilitarise Aegean islands off Turkish coast, while Greek foreign ministry 7 Dec rejected Türkiye’s “unilateral claims” and “threats of war”. Erdoğan 11 Dec stated that “TAYFUN missile will hit Athens … unless you behave”; Greek FM Dendias next day called rhetoric “unacceptable” from NATO ally. Turkish and Greek officials 16 Dec met in Belgian capital Brussels for Germany-brokered talks. Sides continued mutual accusations of airspace violations.
Political tensions heightened ahead of 2023 elections. Ahead of elections due between April and June, criminal court 14 Dec sentenced Istanbul metropolitan mayor and potential presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu to two years and seven months in jail and banned him from politics for insulting members of Supreme Electoral Council, with appeal process underway. In response, tens of thousands of citizens 15-16 Dec rallied before Istanbul municipality.
In other important developments. Police detained some 85 individuals countrywide during month with alleged links to Islamic State. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan 28 Dec met with Russian and Syrian counterparts, marking first official ministerial-level engagement between Türkiye and Syria in 11 years (see Syria).
Organization of Turkic States admitted “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) as observer member.
“TRNC” acquired observer status at Organization of Turkic States. Türkiye 11 Nov announced “TRNC” was awarded observer status at Organization of Turkic States, which includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Türkiye and Uzbekistan. Republic of Cyprus same day called move “meaningless”, claiming Ankara had to downgrade observer status to “entity” rather than “state” to win support. European Union 12 Nov called move “regrettable”, while U.S. 15 Nov said decision was inconsistent with principles of territorial integrity and UN Charter.
In other important developments. Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders 17-18 Nov met UN Assistant Sec-Gen Miroslav Jenča and peacekeeping head Colin Steward to discuss prospects for progress on Cyprus issue. European Council 8 Nov agreed to extend framework of sanctions (in place since Nov 2019) against Türkiye in response to its “unauthorised drilling activities” in waters around Cyprus until 12 Nov 2023. Meanwhile, following 7 Nov meeting with Republic of Cyprus FM Ioannis Kasoulides, Greece’s FM Nikos Dendias warned “any attempt to create fait accomplis either in Greece or in Cyprus will result in a European response” and noted being “on the verge of resuming talks between Cyprus and Lebanon on the delimitation of an Exclusive Economic Zone”.
Govt blamed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Syrian affiliate for deadly Istanbul bombing that killed six, launching strikes in Syria and Iraq and threatening new ground operations.
Govt attributed Istanbul attack to PKK and Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG). In first street bombing targeting civilians since 2017, explosion 13 Nov in bustling Istanbul street killed six and injured at least 81 civilians; officials immediately blamed “the [PKK and YPG]”. Security forces 14 Nov announced arrest of alleged bomber and Syrian national Ahlam Albashir and 49 other suspects; PKK and YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces 14 Nov separately denied involvement. Govt 28 Nov claimed new evidence linking plot to YPG.
Military announced new operations in Syria and Iraq. Following bomb attack, military 20 Nov began “Operation Claw Sword”, conducting airstrikes in northern Syria and Iraq against scores of alleged PKK and YPG targets (see Syria and Iraq). President Erdoğan next day signalled possible ground incursions in both countries and 28 Nov stated govt was “determined to root out the PKK” in both; threat of ground incursion in northern Syria appeared more likely than in Iraq, and could trigger displacement and fuel escalatory cycle of violence with YPG (see Syria). Retaliatory cross-border attacks from northern Syria increased: notably, rocket attack 21 Nov killed three civilians in Gaziantep province. Earlier, operations against PKK within country concentrated on rural areas of Bitlis, Tunceli and Hakkari provinces.
Tensions with Greece remained elevated. Erdoğan 16 Nov reiterated threats that Türkiye “can come suddenly one night” and criticised Greece’s alleged militarisation of Aegean islands; Greece’s FM Nikos Dendias same day condemned threat. Meanwhile, Greek military 10 Nov reported Turkish armed drone flew over Greek islet of Kandelioussa. Turkish Oil Exploration Company 25 Nov said drillship was planning new mission in eastern Mediterranean, triggering uproar in Greek media.
In other important developments. Security forces arrested at least 90 individuals countrywide with alleged links to Islamic State. Ruling party officials 6 Nov met Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), signalling manoeuvring ahead of 2023 elections. Ankara continued efforts to normalise relations with Israel, Armenia and Egypt.
Tensions persisted after U.S. lifted arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus last month, while Türkiye and Turkish Cypriots issued ultimatum to UN peacekeeping mission.
Türkiye vowed new weapons for Turkish Cypriots. After U.S. lifted its decades-old arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus on 16 Sept and Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu late Sept vowed to send more weapons to “protect Turkish Cypriots”, Turkish President Erdoğan 7 Oct said Turkish UAVs and combat drones may be sent to region “because we need to secure Northern Cyprus from all sides”; statement came amid reports of potential plan for Türkiye to establish military base in Karpaz peninsula located on northern tip of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”).
Turkish Cypriot leadership made demands to UN peacekeeping force. Turkish Cypriot leadership demanded end to UN’s peacekeeping force deployment in northern Cyprus unless UN signs agreement specifically with “TRNC”; Turkish Cypriot FM Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu 5 Oct said “We decided to give them another month. It is not the Greek Cypriot government that will approve your mission in the north. It is us”; UN military presence in north is enabled by agreement between UN and Greek Cypriot govt.
Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates in Iraq, Syria and south east Türkiye, while tensions remained high with Greece amid new energy exploration agreement with Libya.
Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates. Operations within Türkiye were concentrated in rural areas of Elazığ, Şırnak and Hakkari provinces. In northern Iraq, operations were concentrated particularly in Duhok region; notably, PKK attack 1 Oct killed Turkish soldier (see Iraq). In northern Syria, Turkish drone strike 6 Oct killed People’s Defence Units (YPG) commander in Aleppo provinces (see Syria); Ankara appeared to remain intent on conducting new military operation against YPG/Syrian Democratic Forces but is yet to secure approval of U.S. or Russia.
Ankara struck deal with Libya, prompting Greece’s condemnation. FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 3 Oct announced govt and Libya had signed memorandum of understanding on joint energy explorations in their agreed Exclusive Economic Zone that was bilaterally declared in late 2019, which is disputed by Egypt and Greece. Greece protested deal, saying implementation “will be de facto illegal and, depending on its gravity, there will be a reaction both at a bilateral level and at the level of the EU and NATO”; Turkish foreign ministry 4 Oct accused Greece of “trying to usurp the legitimate rights of Turkey and Libya with its maximalist maritime jurisdiction demands”. Tensions between Athens and Ankara also remained high over irregular flow of migrants across land and sea borders with Ankara accusing Greece of illegal pushbacks, and Greece accusing Türkiye of deliberately pushing migrants westwards towards Greece.
In other important developments. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued with nearly 90 individuals detained during month; notably, police 17 Oct detained six suspects in southern Adana province. President Erdoğan 6 Oct met Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan for first face-to-face meeting since countries began new process to normalise ties this year.
U.S. lifted decades-old armed embargo on Republic of Cyprus, prompting Turkish condemnation and vow to bolster Turkish military presence on island.Washington announced lifting of long-held arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus. U.S. 16 Sept announced it would fully lift – initially for one year – arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus in place since 1987, saying “Republic of Cyprus has met the necessary conditions under relevant legislation”. In line with U.S. requirements, Republic of Cyprus had put in place in recent years several financial regulatory oversight mechanisms and denied Russian military vessels access to ports, among other conditions.Ankara strongly criticised U.S. and pledged greater military support for Turkish Cypriots. Turkish foreign ministry 16 Sept harshly reacted to U.S. move, saying it would “further strengthen the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigence and negatively affect efforts to resettle the Cyprus issue” as well as “lead to an arms race on the island”. Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 29 Sept said: “We will send more forces there to protect the Turkish Cypriots and we will meet whatever they need in terms of weapons”, while Turkish President Erdoğan same day said Türkiye would reinforce its 40,000 troops on island with additional weapons, ammunition and vehicles. Meanwhile, unconfirmed news reports 20 Sept surfaced that Russia was intending to start direct flights to Ercan airport located in Turkish Cypriot north of island.
Tensions with Greece continued to mount amid maritime incident, while military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates in Iraq, Syria and south east Türkiye.Tensions persisted with Greece amid maritime incident and escalating rhetoric. President Erdoğan 3 Sept warned Greece would pay “heavy” price if it went “too far” and warned: “We may come suddenly one night”. Greek PM Mitsotakis 13 Sept responded: “We wait in the daylight for those who claim that they may come suddenly one night”. Ankara 10 Sept claimed two Greek Coast Guard boats opened harassment fire on Turkish ship in international waters, immediately protested; Greek Coast Guard next day said it opened fire when captain did not comply with orders. Turkish media outlets 25 Sept reported that Greece had deployed tactical armoured vehicles to some eastern Aegean islands, which Ankara asserts ought to be demilitarised under international treaties; Ankara next day summoned Greek ambassador and protested to U.S. over reported deployment of U.S.-supplied vehicles. Greece 29 Sept said Türkiye has no right “to flagrantly violate international law and threaten Greece with war” and Athens “is in favour of dialogue”. Tensions also rose after U.S. late Sept lifted decades-old arms embargo on Republic of Cyprus, prompting stern Turkish response (see Cyprus).Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates. Operations during month held primarily in northern Iraq’s Duhok region, where clashes with PKK 11 Sept killed four Turkish soldiers and wounded two (see Iraq). In northern Syria, military 7 and 11 Sept struck villages near Tal Tamer; suspected Syrian Democratic Forces cross-border attack 18 Sept on Turkish border post in Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province killed Turkish soldier. In south east Türkiye, defence ministry 18 Sept announced it “neutralised” two “PKK/YPG members” in Hakkari province. In southern Mersin province, two PKK militants 26 Sept opened fire on police residence and later killed themselves by detonating suicide bombs.In other important developments. Security forces 2 Sept arrested Semra Güzel, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP, on PKK membership charges. Police during month detained at least 90 individuals with alleged Islamic State (ISIS) links across country, majority of them foreigners.
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