CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Islamic State (ISIS) conducted first attack in seven years, killing one and prompting intensified crackdown, while clashes with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed over dozen soldiers in Iraq, prompting wave of airstrikes. 

ISIS killed one in first attack since Jan 2017. In first claimed attack on Turkish soil in over seven years, ISIS 28 Jan carried out armed assault on Italian Catholic Church located on outskirts of Istanbul, killing one individual. Subsequently, security forces conducted series of raids in Istanbul, detaining nearly 50 ISIS-linked suspects, including two assailants identified as nationals from Russia and Tajikistan. Detentions brought total number of individuals apprehended by security forces (including foreign nationals) during Jan to 280. Earlier, security units 1 Jan apprehended alleged ISIS ring leader Abdullah al-Jundi in northern Syria. 

Clashes with PKK killed more than a dozen Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq. Late Dec spate of attacks on Turkish troops in northern Iraq continued, as PKK 5 Jan killed five soldiers in attack on military base and clash 12 Jan killed nine Turkish soldiers (see Iraq). In response, military 12-16 Jan launched airstrikes in both northern Iraq and Syria, targeting PKK/People’s Protection Units militants as part of strikes on 114 targets in both countries; military’s intensified shelling in northern Syria marked unusually high level for winter months (see Syria). In south east Türkiye, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya 16 Jan announced security forces had destroyed eighteen PKK winter shelters in drone strikes in rural areas. 

Parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO bid, govt actively engaged abroad. Parliament 23 Jan ratified Sweden’s membership to NATO; Ankara expects U.S. to greenlight sale of F-16s in return. Relations with Greece remained on course for improvement, although Greece’s steps to purchase U.S. jets and combat ships stoked concern in Ankara. Attempting to play constructive role in Ukraine-Russia war (see Ukraine), Erdoğan 5 Jan told Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Türkiye was ready to host peace talks. Govt continued to voice strong opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine); police 2 Jan detained 34 people on suspicion of working for Israeli intelligence. Iranian President Raisi 24 Jan visited Ankara, meeting President Erdoğan; pair called for end to Israeli attacks in Gaza.

December 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

President Erdoğan’s visit to Greece marked significant improvement in bilateral ties following months of engagement.

Summit in Greece produced numerous agreements. Relations with Greece further improved as Erdoğan and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 7 Dec met in Greek capital Athens, signing fifteen agreements alongside “Athens Declaration on Friendly Relations and Good Neighbourliness”, committing to military confidence building measures, consultations on political issues and cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Leaders agreed to continue dialogue and spoke of turning Aegean into “sea of peace and cooperation”.

Military clashed with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and affiliates, leaving dozen soldiers dead in Iraq. In Türkiye, security forces 4 Dec killed two wanted PKK militants in rural area of Mardin province. Main focus of anti-militant efforts remained concentrated in northern Iraq and northern Syria, with authorities claiming to have killed, including with targeted strikes, several high-ranking insurgents. In northern Iraq, attacks included 1 Dec drone strike that killed five, while militants 12 Dec killed Turkish second lieutenant. Marking escalation in casualties, clashes with PKK 22-23 Dec killed twelve Turkish soldiers; Turkish Defence Minister 27 Dec said retaliatory attacks struck 71 sites in Iraq and Syria, “neutralising” 59 PKK/People’s Protection Units militants. In Syria, Turkish forces 19 Dec said they had killed seven militants in Türkiye-controlled area.

Tensions continued with Israel and U.S. over Gaza. Ankara continued war of words with Israel over latter’s military campaign in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine); Erdoğan 8 Dec asserted all perpetrators of “genocide” must be punished, including Israeli PM Netanyahu. Events in Gaza also increased strains on U.S.-Türkiye relationship; Erdoğan 8, 14 and 19 Dec criticised Washington’s policy. Turkish parliamentary commission 26 Dec approved Sweden’s NATO membership bid, which awaits parliamentary ratification.

Operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued. Security forces in Dec detained at least 630 individuals with alleged links to ISIS, marking notable increase compared to Nov. Notably, security forces 29 Dec apprehended three allegedly senior ISIS members and 29 others who were suspected of planning attack on churches and synagogues in Istanbul.

November 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Authorities continued targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at home and in Iraq and Syria, while govt continued positive engagement with Greece and rebuked Israel for Gaza onslaught.

Military maintained operations against PKK and affiliates. In Türkiye, police 2 Nov reportedly detained eleven PKK suspects in Istanbul city. IED explosion 4 Nov killed soldier during operation in rural area of eastern Van province. Security forces 5 Nov announced capture of PKK militant on Syrian border. In northern Iraq, defence ministry 13 and 17 Nov claimed operations killed total nineteen PKK members and intelligence services 17 and 20 Nov reportedly eliminated senior PKK members in targeted operations; PKK attack 26 Nov killed three soldiers. In northern Syria, intelligence services same day killed alleged senior People’s Protection Units (YPG) official (see Iraq and Syria).

Dialogue with Greece yielded progress. In first such meeting in three years, Greek diplomatic and military officials 13 Nov visited capital Ankara, agreeing to implement and reactivate numerous confidence-building measures over coming year and establish new dialogue mechanism, marking positive sign ahead of 7 Dec meeting between President Erdoğan and Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Greece. Meanwhile, FM Hakan Fidan 2 Nov attended EU enlargement meeting in Berlin. EU 8 Nov released progress report on Türkiye’s candidate status, which noted “democratic backsliding” among list of other concerns; Ankara same day branded report unfair. European Commission and EU High Rep 29 Nov proposed enhanced cooperation in areas such as trade, transport, energy and migration.

Tensions increased with Israel. In protest of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine), Türkiye 4 Nov recalled ambassador to Israel. Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar 8 Nov announced freeze on energy cooperation until Gaza ceasefire declared. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu 15 Nov labelled President Erdoğan’s criticism over human rights hypocritical, which foreign ministry called “slander”. Erdoğan 20 Nov accused Israel of “genocide” and 29 Nov called Netanyahu “the butcher of Gaza”.

Clampdown on Islamic State (ISIS) continued. Security forces in Nov detained at least 44 individuals with alleged links to ISIS. Notably, authorities 12 Nov detained high-ranking ISIS member in Istanbul.

October 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) carried out first attack in capital Ankara since 2016, prompting retaliatory Turkish strikes in Syria and Iraq; govt engaged regional actors amid Hamas-Israel war.

Military increased strikes on PKK-linked militants after Ankara bombing. After PKK militants 1 Oct conducted suicide bombing in front of interior ministry in Ankara and opened fire on guards, injuring two, govt same day began intensification of retaliatory airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq and People’s Protection Units (YPG) targets in northern Syria (see Iraq and Syria). FM Hakan Fidan 4 Oct declared all PKK and YPG infrastructure are now “legitimate targets”, as subsequent Turkish airstrikes targeted facilities and infrastructure belonging to YPG as well as its members, exacerbating poor humanitarian conditions in Syria. Air campaign in northern Syria triggered tensions between Ankara and Washington after U.S. fighter jet 5 Oct shot down Turkish armed drone; President Erdoğan 10 Oct reacted harshly, accusing U.S. of “training and arming all terrorist groups”.

Govt pursued diplomacy amid Hamas-Israel war. Following outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on 7 Oct (see Israel-Palestine), govt 10 Oct offered to mediate dispute. Fidan 17 Oct confirmed engagement with Hamas’s political wing for hostage release and held diplomatic talks on war with Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Following 17 Oct Al-Ahli hospital blast in Gaza, Ankara hardened stance: President Erdoğan 25 Oct said they will not tolerate Israel acting like “terrorist organisation”, while Fidan warned of “all-out massacre” amid Israel’s ground offensive. Ankara 30 Oct condemned “in the strongest terms Israel’s attack on the Gaza Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital”.

Bilateral ties with Greece remained on track to improve. Deputy FM Burak Akcapar 16-17 Oct met Greek counterpart Konstantinos Fragogiannis in Greek capital Athens for talks, which included discussions on providing “concrete outcomes” for fifth High-Level Cooperation Council to be headed by Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdoğan on 7 Dec. Greece and govt 23 Oct agreed to cooperate against migrant trafficking.

Operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued. Security forces in Oct detained at least 160 individuals with alleged links to ISIS during Oct.

September 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Military targeted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in southeast, northern Syria and northern Iraq, while ties with Greece continued positive trajectory and govt engaged EU and Russia.

Military continued operations against PKK. In rural Diyarbakir province, security forces 18 Sept reportedly killed four high-ranking PKK members. In Iraq, clashes 6 Sept killed Turkish soldier; authorities from Iraq’s Kurdistan region 17 Sept reported Turkish drone strikes killed four PKK members near Sinjar mountains (see Iraq). In northern Syria, drone strikes 17 Sept killed five Syrian Democratic Forces members in Hasakah and 19 Sept killed high-ranking People’s Protection Units (YPG) member in Manbij (see Syria). In first attack in Ankara since 2016, PKK militants 1 Oct conducted suicide bombing in front of interior ministry and opened fire on guards, injuring two; in retaliation, military launched airstrikes in northern Syria and northern Iraq and staged wave of raids across Turkish provinces (await next month’s edition for full coverage).

Relations with Greece remained on course to improve. Greek FM Giorgos Gerapetritis 5 Sept met Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan in Ankara, where pair agreed to seek “new approaches” to resolving issues in Aegean. Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis 17 Sept reiterated importance of dialogue for maritime delimitation, adding that issues of sovereignty will not be negotiated. Mitsotakis and President Erdoğan 20 Sept met on sidelines of UN General Assembly, agreeing to resume 2022 confidence building talks. Mitsotakis next day said geopolitical tensions remain but there has been “good progress” in normalisation.

Govt continued engagement with EU and Russia. EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi 5 Sept visited Ankara and announced several financial aid packages. Responding to European Parliament’s report on 14 Sept that criticised govt’s democracy record, Erdoğan 16 Sept said Türkiye could “part ways” with the EU if necessary but backtracked on 18 Sept, noting “window of opportunity” for revitalising ties. Meanwhile, talks with Russia to reinvigorate Black Sea Grain Deal continued but meeting between Erdoğan and Russian President Putin 4 Sept ended without breakthrough.

Crackdown on Islamic State-linked individuals continued. Security forces during Sept detained at least 125 individuals with alleged links to ISIS.

August 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

July 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

June 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

May 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

April 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

March 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

February 2023

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

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.

January 2023

Europe & Central Asia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”.

January 2022

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party continued in south east and northern Iraq, while security forces detained over 100 Islamic State-linked suspects. Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) remained concentrated in northern Iraq, but some clashes took place in Turkey’s south east. Notably, IED explosion 8 Jan killed three Turkish soldiers in Şanlıurfa’s Akçakale district on Turkey-Syria border; military in subsequent days responded with operations targeting PKK members in border area. Ground operations in south east were concentrated in rural areas of Tunceli, Mardin and Şanlıurfa provinces. Air operations in northern Iraq and northern Syria continued targeting higher-ranking members of PKK. In Syria, bomb attacks targeting Turkish security forces and Ankara-backed rebels in Turkish-controlled Afrin, al-Bab and Azaz mid-month prompted Turkish military retaliation (see Syria). Govt 4 Jan submitted request to parliament to lift legislative immunities of 24 pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party MPs, including party’s current Co-Chair Pervin Buldan. Security units’ operations against Islamic State (ISIS) continued during month. Police detained around 100 individuals with suspected links to ISIS across country. Notably, in significant raid on 12 Jan, police detained 21 individuals, including ten Syrian and four Iraqi nationals, in southern Mersin province. Maritime tensions in eastern Mediterranean with Greece continued. Greek FM Nikos Dendias 4 Jan said Turkey’s rhetoric against Greece “has reached a level we have not seen for years”; Defence Minister Hulusi Akar 8 Jan accused Greece of undermining NATO by attempting to form alliances within bloc. Fifth meeting of the Turkish-Greek Joint Economic Committee 26 Jan commenced in Greek capital Athens for first time since 2010; Turkey and Greece signed Fifth Term Protocol to enhance bilateral trade relations and cooperation in several fields at Committee meeting. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar same day said Turkey was ready to engage with Greek side in fourth round of military-to-military talks on confidence-building measures. Meanwhile, Ankara and Yerevan continued steps to normalise relations. Armenia 1 Jan lifted embargo on Turkish goods; Turkish Special Envoy Serdar Kılıç and Armenia’s Special Envoy Ruben Rubinyan 14 Jan met for first time in Russian capital Moscow in “positive and constructive atmosphere”.

December 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Amid deepening economic strains, authorities continued military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and detained dozens of suspected Islamic State (ISIS) supporters. Military operations against the PKK predominantly took place in northern Iraq (see Iraq), while some clashes occurred in country’s south east. Notably, clashes in south-eastern province of Tunceli 3 Dec killed Turkish soldier. Ground operations in south east during month were concentrated in rural areas of Tunceli, Mardin, Şırnak and Hakkari provinces; security forces 29 Dec launched counter-terrorism operation against PKK in south east’s Batman province. Security units continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells and operatives as police during month carried out more than 190 detentions of individuals allegedly linked with ISIS, majority of them foreigners; notably police 9 Dec conducted simultaneous raids in capital Ankara, detaining 22 foreign nationals, and same day detained 11 foreign nationals in Istanbul city; 28 Dec detained 16 people accused of ISIS links. Police 14 Dec also detained nine Iraqi nationals in central Anatolian province of Kırşehir, with many detainees suspected of allegedly planning attacks on New Year’s celebrations. Economy continued to face strains. President Erdoğan 2 Dec appointed new treasury and finance minister, Nureddin Nebati; 8 Dec called on citizens to be patient and trust Turkey’s new economic path, reaffirming commitment to low interest rates, which he said will boost investment, jobs, exports and growth. After hitting record lows in first half of the month, Turkish lira rebounded after Erdoğan’s 20 Dec announcement of new program to protect local deposits against currency fluctuations. Internationally, Turkey and Armenia 13 Dec announced they will mutually appoint special envoys to discuss steps to normalise relations (see Armenia, and Armenia/Turkey). Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu 13 Dec said Turkey “will act together with Azerbaijan at every step” and 27 Dec confirmed first meeting of special envoys, who will lead dialogue between Yerevan and Ankara, will take place in Russian capital Moscow. Turkey and Greece exchanged barbs over migrant pushbacks in Aegean Sea during month; Athens and Ankara officials also continued harsh rhetoric regarding Aegean dispute, dimming prospects for progress in “exploratory talks” relaunched between two sides in Jan 2021.

November 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while security forces detained over 100 suspected Islamic State (ISIS) members. Military continued air and ground operations against PKK, specifically airstrikes targeting higher-ranking PKK members, in south east and northern Iraq. Security forces continued operations against ISIS operatives. Police during month detained more than 115 individuals with suspected links to ISIS across country. Notably, police 2 Nov carried out simultaneous raids in 27 locations in Istanbul, Adana, Batman and Şanlıurfa, detaining 18 people. Police same day detained 18 Iraqi nationals in central Anatolian province of Kayseri accused of having joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq before entering Turkey. Leaders of major opposition parties Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (CHP) and Meral Akşener (IYI) 17 Nov called on President Erdoğan to hold early elections; ruling alliance consisting of Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) however insisted on sticking to mid-2023 timeline.

October 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Military operations continued against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in south east and northern Iraq, and authorities arrested scores of alleged Islamic State supporters. Military continued operations against PKK in south east and northern Iraq. In south east, operations concentrated in rural areas of Bingöl and Şırnak provinces; interior ministry 5 Oct claimed number of PKK members operating inside country dropped to 189. In northern Iraq, military conducted air operations targeting higher-ranking members of PKK. Attack in northern Syria 10 Oct killed two Turkish policemen, for which Ankara blamed People’s Protection Units (YPG) – Syrian armed group with links to PKK (see Syria). Parliament 27 Oct extended military’s mandate to launch cross-border military operations in Iraq and Syria for two years. Security units continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country. Police detained more than 130 individuals with alleged ISIS links during month. Notably, security units 5 Oct carried out simultaneous raids in 18 locations in Istanbul, detaining 16 individuals, and police 12 Oct detained 11 ISIS-linked suspects in simultaneous raids in nine provinces, including Ankara and Adana. In sign of deteriorating relations with West, President Erdoğan 23 Oct said he had ordered foreign ministry to declare persona non grata ten Western ambassadors, including U.S., Canada, France and Germany, after they issued joint statement calling for release of businessman and human rights activist Osman Kavala who has been jailed since Oct 2017; crisis was defused after embassies reaffirmed commitment to Article 41 of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which stipulates that diplomatic missions shall not interfere in domestic affairs of their host country. In response, Erdoğan 27 Oct stepped back from his decision to expel the ambassadors. Erdoğan and U.S. President Biden 31 Oct met on sidelines of G20 summit, focusing on bilateral relations as well as regional issues, including Eastern Mediterranean.

September 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Authorities reported dwindling number of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants across country, and continued operations against alleged Islamic State supporters. Interior minister 8 Sept claimed number of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in country had dropped below 200 for first time since conflict began, claiming “Turkey has been cleared of terror”; Defence Minister Hulusi Akar same day vowed to continue fight against group with determination “until the last terrorist is neutralised”. Turkey continued operations against PKK in northern Iraq as airstrikes targeted suspected PKK targets throughout month; defence minister 12, 17 and 24 Sept announced death of Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq (see Iraq). Govt continued efforts to delegitimise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); police 1 Sept detained more than 50 individuals protesting on World Peace Day in economic capital Istanbul, including HDP members and party officials. Security units continued to carry out operations against Islamic State (ISIS) cells/operatives across country. Notably, police during month detained more than 80 individuals for their alleged links to ISIS, majority of them foreigners (mostly Syrian and Iraqi nationals).

August 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

Authorities continued to target pro-Kurdish opposition, and to launch operations abroad against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); concerns grew over potential new wave of Afghan refugees. Govt continued efforts to delegitimise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Police 1 Aug detained 11 people on propaganda-related charges who participated in HDP demonstration in Istanbul; security forces 14 Aug detained five individuals in Muş province, including HDP provincial co-chair, on terrorism charges, and 20 Aug detained 19 individuals, including HDP officials, in Istanbul. Lawsuit to ban HDP continued; HDP lawyers 16 Aug requested additional time from Constitutional Court to prepare for defence. Meanwhile, PKK 12 Aug conducted mortar attack on Turkish military base in northern Iraq, killing one Turkish soldier. Reported Turkish drone and airstrikes 16-17 Aug around Iraq’s Sinjar district targeting PKK-linked Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and medical clinic killed at least ten people, including civilians and senior YBS member Said Hassan (see Iraq). Turkish airstrikes targeting Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria continued (see Syria). Security forces also continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) across country, with police detaining some 70 individuals for their alleged ISIS links. Notably, police 14, 19 Aug detained 20 ISIS suspects, majority of them foreign nationals, during raids in Istanbul. Following Taliban’s seizure of Afghan capital Kabul (see Afghanistan), Ankara expressed concern over potential new mass influx of refugees; 22 Aug beefed up security at border with Iran and accelerated border wall construction. President Erdogan 16 Aug acknowledged risk of new refugee wave, said govt would work with Pakistan to bring stability, and 19 Aug said Turkey had no intention of becoming “Europe’s migrant storage unit”. Meanwhile, intercommunal tensions increased between Syrians and locals in Ankara’s Altındağ district when group of Turkish citizens 12 Aug attacked shops and homes belonging to Syrians after fight between Turkish and Syrian youths left one Turkish citizen dead.

July 2021

Europe & Central Asia

Türkiye

President Erdoğan made rhetorical overtures to Kurds, while military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); authorities arrested dozens of suspected jihadists. President Erdoğan 9 July visited majority-Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, announcing govt had “launched the solution process” and promising “no more blood would spill”; Erdoğan also announced new project to turn Diyarbakır prison – infamous site where thousands of Kurds allegedly suffered torture during early 1980s – into cultural centre, provoking criticism from ultra-nationalist voices. Constitutional Court 1 July ruled that rights of unseated pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu had been violated after parliament in March stripped him of MP status; police forcefully dispersed HDP protests in front of his prison complex before his 6 July release; parliament 16 July reinstated his MP status. Gunman 14 July attacked HDP’s district office in southern district of Marmaris; authorities in following days detained alleged gunman and four other suspects. Meanwhile, Turkish military continued operations against PKK in northern Iraq. Notably, Turkish media 26 July reported so-called Hakurk logistics area manager of PKK was killed in northern Iraq’s Hakurk region late June; PKK had not yet confirmed his death by end of month. In northern Syria, defence ministry 24 July confirmed two Turkish soldiers were killed and two wounded in People’s Protection Units (YPG)/PKK-attributed attack on their armoured vehicle in Turkish-controlled territory; NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights same day reported death of three Turkish soldiers from alleged YPG shelling in rural Aleppo. Security forces continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) across country. Police detained more than 140 individuals, most Syrian and Iraqi, for alleged ISIS ties throughout July. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu 14 July announced that since July 2016 coup, authorities had “neutralised” 1,523 ISIS members and foiled three attacks in 2021.