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CrisisWatch is our early warning and 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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August 2023

Europe & Central Asia


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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