CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.

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January 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

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.

Türkiye

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.

December 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

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.

Türkiye

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).

November 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

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”.

Türkiye

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.

October 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

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.

Türkiye

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.

September 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

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.

Türkiye

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.

August 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Türkiye continued hydrocarbon exploration in undisputed maritime zones north of island, while European energy companies announced major gas discovery south of island. Türkiye 9 Aug dispatched its fifth drillship Abdülhamid Han for hydrocarbon research and drilling in undisputed maritime zones north of Cyprus; Greek Cypriots have been alarmed by prospect of such activities moving into disputed zones. French energy company Total and Italian energy company Eni 22 Aug announced discovery of significant natural gas deposits at Cronos-1 well in Block 6, south of island; preliminary estimates indicate presence of 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas. Republic of Cyprus energy ministry same day said govt and companies had already begun “processing ways to expedite and optimise use of this new discovery”. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev 9 Aug met with Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar in Türkiye on margins of Islamic Solidarity Games. Meeting drew harsh criticism from Republic of Cyprus officials, who 11 Aug said they were expecting “corrective steps” and threatened to veto Azerbaijan’s bid for partnership deal on energy supplies with EU; Greek Cypriot officials are concerned that such meetings could pave way for political recognition of Turkish Cypriot entity in north.

Türkiye

Amid military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), fighting escalated with Kurdish-led forces in Syria, while tensions persisted with Greece and govt restored ties with Israel. In escalation in northern Syria, military launched strikes on Kurdish-led forces, who claimed attacks on army sites in Turkish border provinces that killed several Turkish soldiers (see Syria). Military also continued operations against PKK in Iraq and Türkiye’s south east. In northern Iraq, Defence ministry 27 Aug said it killed nine PKK militants. In Türkiye’s south east, military 8 Aug launched new anti-PKK operation in rural areas of Bitlis province. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu 19 Aug said only 124 PKK members remained within country’s borders and “no terrorist will remain in the countryside” in 2023. Authorities detained at least 30 pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) officials. Police detained at least 125 individuals with alleged links to Islamic State (ISIS). Meanwhile, tensions persisted between Ankara and Athens. Media outlets 16 Aug reported Greek authorities mid-month transported group of 38 migrants stranded on islet on Evros/Meriç river along Türkiye-Greece land border since mid-July to mainland Greece; Turkish authorities throughout month accused Athens of pushing back migrants on border, while Greek officials countered that Turkish security officials forced them to cross. Defence ministry 28 Aug accused Greece of locking on to Turkish jets with S-300 air defence systems on 23 Aug, which Greek authorities denied on 29 Aug. On diplomatic front, FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu 11 Aug announced brief exchange with Syrian FM Faisal Mekdad, in which former voiced need to reconcile regime and opposition, sparking speculation over potential shift in Syria policy. In similar vein, President Erdoğan 19 Aug mentioned potential “political dialogue or diplomacy” with Syrian regime. Erdoğan met Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy 5 and 18 Aug, respectively, as part of efforts to ensure safe grain passage from Ukraine. Ankara and Israel 17 Aug announced restoration of full diplomatic relations. Ankara, Sweden and Finland 26 Aug agreed to continue consultations over Nordic nations’ NATO bid.

July 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Republic of Cyprus rejected Turkish Cypriot leader’s proposal to cooperate on energy, resources and other issues, claiming it undermined reunification prospects. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 1 and 8 July presented proposals for cooperation with Greek Cypriots on hydrocarbons, electricity, renewable energy, water, demining and irregular migration. Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 20 July rejected proposals, claiming they point toward creation of two states and not reunification, but said his administration would still be open to discuss them on condition that talks take place on basis of UN Security Council resolutions related to Cyprus question. UN Security Council 28 July unanimously voted in favour of renewing mandate of UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus for six months, until 31 Jan 2023.

Türkiye

Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), tensions persisted with Greece, and govt pursued normalisation with Armenia. Military continued operations against PKK and its affiliates in northern Iraq, northern Syria and, to lesser extent, Türkiye, seeking to target PKK’s upper echelons. In notable escalation, artillery fire 20 July killed nine tourists and injured more than 20 in Duhok province in Iraq’s Kurdistan autonomous region; Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Govt authorities blamed attack on Türkiye and issued harsh and critical statements, while Ankara rejected these claims and held PKK responsible (see Iraq). Security operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives continued, leading to at least 110 individuals with alleged links to ISIS being detained across country, majority of them foreigners. Tensions remained elevated with Greece over Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Sea disputes. President Erdoğan 1 July responded to calls for meeting with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis at NATO summit, saying: “We said, ‘Sorry, but we don’t have time for such a meeting right now’. Because it is obvious that they are militarising the islands”; Erdoğan also asserted: “We don’t want war with Greece, but Greece does not keep its word”. Ankara and Athens also exchanged barbs over movement of irregular migrants across Aegean and Türkiye-Greece land border during month. Meanwhile, govt and Armenia made progress in normalising ties. Special representatives from both sides 1 July held their fourth meeting in Austrian capital Vienna. In historic move, Ankara and Yerevan agreed to – as soon as possible – enable crossing of land border by third-country nationals; they also agreed to commence direct air cargo trade between their countries. FM Çavuşoğlu 4 July announced that Türkiye had offered to hold normalisation talks in Yerevan. After govt lifted its veto on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids last month, President Erdoğan 18 July warned: “If these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfil our conditions, we will freeze the process”; it remained to be seen which steps two Nordic nations will take and whether those will satisfy Ankara’s demands.

June 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Republic of Cyprus protested Türkiye’s new measures supporting Turkish Cypriots, while assisting “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in dousing wildfires. De facto tourism minister of “TRNC” 2 June announced Türkiye would designate Turkish Cypriot Ercan airport as domestic flight route; announcement followed Türkiye’s financial package for “TRNC”, which was agreed in April and made public in May, that triggered debate during month; Turkish officials claim measures are aimed at decreasing cost of flights to Cyprus and supporting north of island that remains economically isolated and faces serious economic strains. Republic of Cyprus (RoC) reacted harshly to measures; President Anastasiades 6 June said country will lodge complaint with UN over what he described as Türkiye’s ambition to exert “complete control” over “TRNC”. Tensions over such issues further reduced prospects of relaunching formal negotiations between communities, while room to discuss confidence-building measures also shrinks. Meanwhile, RoC assisted “TRNC” in combating widespread wildfires that broke out toward end of month after latter requested help; RoC sent two firefighting aircrafts and one helicopter, while UK and Israel also supported efforts. After RoC issued navigational advisory 19 June-3 July to install fiber optics inside Türkiye’s exclusive economic zone, Türkiye issued counter-advisory to block plan, insisting areas are inside its continental shelf.

Türkiye

Authorities pursued plans for military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria and detained dozens of Kurdish party members at home; meanwhile, tensions with Greece rose. President Erdoğan 1 June announced fifth cross-border operation into northern Syria, hoping to clear Tal Rifaat and Manbij of People’s Protection Forces (YPG) militants – Syrian affiliate of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) – and extend 30km “safe zone” south of border (see Syria); U.S. and Russian opposition appeared, for now, to stall operation. Military also continued PKK operations in northern Iraq and, to lesser extent, south-eastern Turkey, albeit at slower pace compared to May. At home, authorities increased pressure on pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). Notably, police 3 June detained over 40 HDP members, including party’s provincial co-chairs in Istanbul, Bingöl, and Edirne cities; 8 June detained over 20 Kurdish journalists in south-eastern majority Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, 16 of whom were later arrested on terrorism propaganda charges. Authorities detained at least 110 individuals with alleged Islamic State links during month. Tensions escalated with Greece over Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean Sea disputes. After complaining in May about Turkish military flights over Greek islands, Athens 1 June put its military on high alert and 6 June protested Türkiye’s actions at UN; Turkish officials accused Greece of militarising eastern Aegean islands in contravention of international treaties. Greek defence minister 7 June said Athens was “dangerously close to its limits”, while FM Çavuşoğlu same day questioned Greek sovereignty over some Aegean islands, which drew harsh reactions from Athens. NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 14 June called on sides to de-escalate and resolve disputes; tensions and military manoeuvres in Aegean Sea raise risk that small incident could spark escalation. Defying expectations at NATO summit, Ankara 29 June lifted veto on Finland and Sweden’s accession in return for measures from both countries addressing its concerns. Ankara continued efforts to establish safe corridor to ship over 20 tonnes of grain from Ukraine, critical for global food security (see Ukraine). Govt remained invested in diplomatic efforts to normalise ties with regional adversaries, receiving Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman 22 June (see Saudi Arabia).

May 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Tensions over Varosha continued, while Republic of Cyprus and UK signed deal allowing Cypriots to develop properties in so-called UK “sovereign base areas”. Concerns flared among Greek Cypriots after video mid-month circulated allegedly showing bulldozer clearing another stretch of beach in fenced-off town of Varosha, under Turkish military control since 1974; Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades 19 May said “I have been briefed officially from those monitoring developments there… we shall not leave this new provocation to go unnoticed, and we shall make all the necessary demarches”. Republic of Cyprus officials 9 May announced ground-breaking accord with UK which would enable thousands of Cypriots to develop properties in so-called “sovereign base areas” (3% of island) that the UK – owing to its colonial past – has held on island. Following resignation of Greek Cypriot chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis in April, govt 15 May appointed Menelaos Menelaou as replacement. In “TRNC”, three Turkish Cypriot political parties – the National Unity Party (UBP), Democratic Party (DP), and Rebirth Party (YDP) – late April formed new coalition govt, which failed on 1 May when coalition partners withdrew support; early general elections appear likely. Criticising Greek Cypriot efforts to bolster its defence capabilities, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 5 May said that Greek Cypriots were engaged in “an aggressive armament program and [were] preparing to shed blood”.

Türkiye

Authorities continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), arrested scores of suspected Islamic State operatives, and set strict conditions for new NATO bids amid Ukraine war. Operations – including drone strikes – continued in northern Iraq, northern Syria, as well as to lesser extent in Turkey’s south east throughout month. Turkish military continued operations against PKK in Metina, Avasin and Zap regions of northern Iraq as part of Operation Claw Lock launched 18 April (see Iraq). President Erdoğan 23 May announced new security operations along southern borders, although it remains unclear where they will concentrate (see Syria). Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country intensified during month; police detained more than 130 individuals with alleged ISIS links, mostly foreigners. Notably, police 16 May arrested three Syrians in south-eastern Şanlıurfa province, one of them reportedly planning to carry out suicide attack, 17 May arrested foreign national allegedly planning suicide attack in western Bursa province, and 24 May disrupted suicide plot by another foreign national in Istanbul city. Internationally, after Finland and Sweden during month announced intention to join NATO alliance amid Ukraine war, Ankara 13 May announced it would block requests unless both countries meet set of demands, including halting alleged support for PKK, extraditing individuals sought by Ankara and lifting arms export restrictions on Turkey. Erdoğan 13 May cited Ankara’s past decision to permit Greece’s re-entry into NATO as reason for caution with proposed accession by Finland and Sweden to alliance, saying “we do not want to make the same mistake again” due to “attitude Greece has adopted towards Turkey with NATO behind its back”. Referring to Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Erdoğan 23 May said “I will never agree to meet with him”; statement came after Mitsotakis in 17 May speech before U.S. Congress tacitly criticised Turkey for its actions in Aegean/East Mediterranean and asked U.S. not to supply Turkey with F-16 fighter jets; diplomatic tracks between Greece and Turkey on hold since mid-May. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 25 May visited Israel to meet his counterpart Yair Lapid; sides agreed to foster economic cooperation and carry on dialogue to normalise bilateral ties.

April 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Greek Cypriot negotiator resigned over lack of progress in diplomatic process, while Republic of Cyprus boosted ties with Israel. Greek Cypriot chief negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis 17 April resigned, citing lack of progress on negotiations for resolution to Cyprus question; govt intends to appoint Menelaos Menelaou, foreign ministry official with long experience regarding Cyprus negotiations, after new president elected in Feb 2023. Israeli, Greek and Greek Cypriot FMs 5 April met in Greek capital Athens and vowed to boost energy ties and cooperation in other areas; specifically, they agreed to make progress on Euro-Asia interconnector project – world’s longest and deepest underwater power cable through Mediterranean (due to be completed in 2024). International news outlets 11 April reported that Republic of Cyprus, Israel and Greece were exploring option of building liquefied natural gas terminal in Republic of Cyprus.

Türkiye

Military operations against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) intensified in northern Iraq, human rights advocates received heavy sentences, and President Erdoğan visited Saudi Arabia. Military 18 April launched new operation against PKK in northern Iraq dubbed “Claw-Lock”; fighter jets targeted infrastructure and bases used by PKK militants in Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions (see Iraq). In Turkey, roadside bomb attack 20 April hit bus carrying prison guards in western Bursa province, killing one and injuring thirteen; Peoples’ United Revolutionary Movement, umbrella group spearheaded by PKK, 24 April claimed attack. Police crackdown against pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party continued during month, including 12 April detention of 91 individuals on charges of offering financial support to PKK. Security operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives continued; police detained more than 120 individuals with alleged ISIS links across country. In contravention of legally-binding judgment of European Court of Human Rights from Dec 2019, penal court in Istanbul city 25 April sentenced businessman and human rights advocate Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” over his involvement in 2013 Gezi park protests; seven other well-known human rights activists also sentenced to 18 years in prison in same case. Ankara and Athens continued diplomatic engagement, notwithstanding tensions. FM Çavuşoğlu 4 April said dialogue channels between sides were more open today than ever before. Govts 19 April confirmed they will hold fourth round of talks on military confidence building measures (date yet to be announced). Greece 27 April protested “unacceptable provocation” following flights by Turkish fighter jets in Aegean Sea, claiming it violated Greek airspace; Turkey rejected claims and accused Athens of violating its airspace. Govt 22 April pulled out of NATO air force exercises due to be held in Greece in May. In move intended to pave way toward normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia, Turkish court 7 April suspended case in absentia of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder suspects, deciding to transfer it to Saudi Arabia; human rights groups heavily criticised move. President Erdoğan 28 April visited Saudi Arabia to meet Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (see Saudi Arabia).

March 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Turkish Cypriot leadership cast Greek Cypriot proposals on confidence-building measures as insincere. After new Greek Cypriot FM Ioannis Kasoulides late Feb announced govt would actively pursue progress on confidence-building measures with Turkish Cypriot side (such as opening Ercan airport to international flights and handing over Varosha/Maraş area to UN administration), Turkish Cypriot leadership 7 March said offer was “nothing but old proposals that have been repeatedly negotiated and exhausted” that were “aimed at perpetuating the status quo and reinforcing the claim of the Greek Cypriot side that it is the sole sovereign of the island”. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in response to which Republic of Cyprus 28 Feb closed its airspace to Russia, Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus 1 March noted that Russian tourists could now go to Turkey “to spend their money”. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 11 March said “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) airspace was open to Russia, and its doors were open to tourists from there. War in Ukraine also appeared to accelerate discussions around how Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbon resources can reduce western Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, but, for now, prospects look dim (see Turkey).

Northern Ireland (UK)

Hoax bomb threat against Irish FM raised prospect of Loyalist groups escalating campaign against Northern Ireland Protocol. Paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) 25 March reportedly coerced driver to transport hoax bomb to car park of Houben Centre in capital Belfast, where Irish FM Simon Conveney was attending peacebuilding event; security alert halted Conveney’s speech and evacuated him from location. Loyalists indicated in media reports that incident marked start of renewed campaign against Northern Ireland Protocol – post-Brexit arrangements for UK-EU trade that created regulatory border in Irish Sea. Protesters 25 March rallied in Ballymoney town demanding UK govt overturn protocol. Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie 27 March criticised anti-protocol rallies for “raising tensions” and acknowledged “media reports quoting UVF sources that they intend to escalate their terrorist activities in the coming weeks”.

Türkiye

Military operations continued against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south east and northern Iraq, albeit at reduced intensity, while Ankara engaged with Greece, Israel and Armenia. Military operations against PKK remained concentrated primarily in northern Iraq, with occasional clashes in Turkey’s south east and at Turkey-Syria border. Numerous airstrikes in northern Iraq and some ground operations in Turkey targeting PKK positions persisted, but at lesser intensity than in previous months likely due to harsh winter conditions in area’s mountainous terrain where conflict remains concentrated. Ground operations in Turkey’s south east during month took place in rural areas of Diyarbakır, Mardin, Hakkari and Hatay provinces. Turkish forces continued targeting senior PKK figures, including via use of armed drones. Turkish military 8 and 10 March targeted “PKK/Kurdish group People’s Defence Units (YPG)” positions at Turkey-Syria border. Security forces continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives; police detained more than 100 individuals (including Turkish citizens and other nationals) with alleged links to ISIS across country. Relations between authorities and Greek govt improved, in large part catalysed by war in Ukraine. Greek PM Mitsotakis 13 March met with President Erdoğan in Istanbul city, where two leaders agreed on keeping communication channels open and improving bilateral relations; following meeting, Turkish presidency noted “Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the European security architecture, which is changing with Russia’s attack on Ukraine”. Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Greek counterpart 16 March emphasised importance of maintaining dialogue; sides are expected to meet for fourth round of talks on military confidence-building measures in Ankara next month. Ankara remained invested in efforts to normalise ties with Israel and Armenia. In first visit by Israel’s head of state to country since 2007, President Isaac Herzog 9 March met Erdoğan, who described visit as “opportunity to revive the energy cooperation that began before”, signalling potential alternative pipeline or other collaboration that may carry Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe. Armenian FM Mirzoyan 10 March attended Antalya Diplomacy Forum where he expressed willingness “to establish diplomatic relations and open borders with Turkey”.

February 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Cyprus

Prospects for relaunching formal negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriots remained dim. Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar 2 Feb received UN Sec-Gen’s Special Representative in Cyprus Colin Stewart in Lefkoşa, de facto capital of Turkish Cypriot north of island. Following meeting, Stewart said that they were focused on steps such as intercommunal contact, trade relations and peace education to facilitate dialogue toward settlement. UN in Cyprus 8 Feb announced that Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Tatar agreed on action plan developed by Technical Committee on Gender Equality to ensure “women’s full, equal and meaningful representation in the settlement process in Cyprus”. New “coalition government” to be headed by Faiz Sucuoğlu 21 Feb formed in unrecognised Turkish Cypriot north between three right-wing parties.

Türkiye

Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq and south east Turkey, while President Erdoğan urged support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Military operations against PKK remained concentrated in northern Iraq, with occasional clashes in south east and at Turkey-Syria border. Notably, military 2 Feb launched simultaneous cross-border aerial campaign (dubbed “Winter Eagle”), with airstrikes in northern Syria’s Derik city, and Sinjar and Makhmour regions in northern Iraq. Ground operations in south east during Feb were concentrated in rural areas of Şanlıurfa, Bingöl and Muş provinces. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country continued, leading to detention of more than 85 individuals with alleged ISIS links. High inflation led to rising energy prices and ignited discontent. Notably, 11 mayors from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), including Istanbul’s mayor, 8 Feb released joint statement calling for govt to ease “unbearable” burden of energy prices on local administrations. Detention of businessman and human rights advocate Osman Kavala remained point of tension with western allies; Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers 2 Feb referred Kavala case to European Court of Human Rights, which will determine whether govt, by not releasing Kavala, violated European Convention on Human Rights; Erdoğan 3 Feb dismissed decision as “biased”. Tensions persisted with Greece in eastern Mediterranean. FM Çavuşoğlu 10 Feb said that if militarisation of islands close to Turkey’s mainland continues, “sovereignty of these islands will be discussed”. Erdoğan 16 Feb stated that govt will make the highest-level warning if Greece “continues with its provocations” because it is “not possible” to remain silent on military activities carried out on islands which ought to be demilitarised. Turkish and Greek officials 22-23 Feb met for round of “exploratory talks” in Greek capital Athens that led to no substantial progress. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (see Ukraine), Erdoğan 24 Feb called attack “serious blow to peace and stability” and “unacceptable”; Erdoğan next day criticised NATO and EU for not taking more decisive steps in support of Ukraine. Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 28 Feb announced that Turkey closed Bosphorus and Dardanelles waterways to passage of “all warships”.

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