Crisis Group has worked in Turkey for well over a decade, engaging the government and a range of other stakeholders in order to develop analysis of the country's domestic and regional concerns and to advocate for ways of ending, mitigating or preventing conflict. At home, these concerns include the threat of escalated fighting with Kurdistan Workers’ Party militants and the uncertainty presented by jihadists returning from foreign battlefields, as well as the political, economic and social strains of hosting over four million refugees. In its immediate neighbourhood and beyond, Ankara has become a crucial player whose alliances and geopolitical ambitions are shaping various conflicts and prospects for their resolution. As Turkey finds its place in a changing world order, Crisis Group provides insights into how its policies, and those of its partners, may better contribute to peace and stability.
Greece and Turkey have stepped back from the brink of military confrontation over gas exploration in disputed waters in the Mediterranean Sea. But trouble still looms. European leaders should welcome signs of conciliation from Athens and Ankara and nudge them toward talks.
Turkish military continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq in rural areas of Turkey’s south east, while tensions rose in eastern Mediterranean. In northern Iraq, Turkish military reportedly seized control of Jaldah mountain as well as the areas of Mamand and Kohareş located in Haftanin region and conducted 15 air raids on PKK positions throughout month, including drone strike 11 Aug that reportedly killed several PKK militants and two Iraqi army officers in the Sidakan area in north-eastern Iraq (see Iraq); in retaliation, PKK 17 Aug announced it had shot down Turkish helicopter, which was unconfirmed. In south east, amid small scale clashes with PKK militants, security forces 12 Aug launched major anti-PKK operation in Amanos mountains in southern border province of Hatay; operation is fourth of its kind announced since 20 July. In northern Syria, low-intensity clashes continued between Turkish security forces and People’s Protection Units (YPG). Govt continued moves toward criminalising members of Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); police detained at least 95 HDP members throughout month. Govt continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey: security personnel reportedly detained 83 individuals with suspected ISIS links throughout month. Security forces 13 Aug in Bursa province’s İnegöl district detained foreign national who illegally entered Turkey from Syria reportedly plotting suicide attack. Amid continued Turkish drilling in disputed maritime areas in eastern Mediterranean and reported collision 12 Aug between Greek frigate and Turkish vessel, tensions rose with Greece and Republic of Cyprus (see Cyprus). Following visit to Athens, German FM Heiko Maas 25 Aug visited Ankara to help defuse tensions; Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey is ready for dialogue without any preconditions but talks must not include Greek preconditions either. Following the conclusions of the informal EU foreign council 28 Aug, Turkish MFA released a statement saying the EU has no authority to criticise Turkey’s hydrocarbon activities within its continental shelf and asking EU countries to refrain from supporting “Greece’s maximalist claims that violate international law”. COVID-19 cases began to resurge throughout month with 1,200-1,500 cases reported daily since the start of August.
Turkey, like many countries, must figure out how to handle thousands of citizens coming home from jihadist battlefields abroad. None has mounted a domestic attack since 2017, but the danger is not gone. Authorities should consider adding enhanced social programs to their law-and-order approach.
Turkish intervention in Libya’s war stopped the besieged Tripoli government from collapsing. But fighting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces has since escalated, threatening a protracted conflict. Both Ankara and Haftar’s regional backers should urge their allies toward a return to negotiations and a ceasefire.
Gulf states are competing for influence in the Horn of Africa to control the Red Sea, transposing internal rivalries onto a fragile region. Horn governments should increase their bargaining power with their powerful neighbours, who should recognise the risks their policies pose to regional security.
Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, half of whom are under eighteen. Despite European aid, tensions are rising as the country strains to accommodate the influx. The answer is smarter integration policies aimed particularly at meeting the needs of vulnerable youth.
Much of north-eastern Syria has been safe during the civil war. But in the event of U.S. military withdrawal, a mad scramble for control could be unleashed. Washington and Moscow should help their respective allies in Syria reach a decentralisation deal for the area.
Rivalry persists between Russia and Turkey in their shared neighbourhood of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus. But Moscow-Ankara relations have warmed overall. Building on their wider rapprochement, the two powers can work together to tamp down flare-ups of regional conflicts.
It seems that what is left of ISIS networks now is that they are getting organized in smaller groups of five or six people who may not be connected to each other even.
The adversarial positions of the UAE and Turkey across the Middle East and North Africa are spilling into the East Mediterranean dispute.
Turkey is also one of the candidates to rebuild Beirut harbour. There is also a section within Lebanese society – amongst Sunni Muslims – who have some sympathy for Turkey’s neo-Ottoman project.
The use of drone technology appears to have significantly shifted the balance of power on the ground, allowing Turkish forces to go after militants in areas previously difficult to penetrate.
Getting out [of Idlib] altogether, allowing the refugees to come into Turkey and letting Assad take that space is not an idea that’s going to resonate with Turkish society.
[Turkey has been using Russia] to push back against policies that it doesn’t like from its Western partners.
Online Event to discuss International Crisis Group's report "Calibrating the Response: Turkey’s ISIS Returnees".
Crisis Group's Libya Senior Analyst Claudia Gazzini and Turkey Project Director Nigar Göksel held a panel moderated by our Communications & Outreach Director Hugh Pope to discuss Crisis Group's 29 April report on outside intervention in Libya.
In this interview, Crisis Group's Libya Expert Claudia Gazzini try to provide some insight into Turkey's relation with Libya and the Mediterranean neighbourhood.
Originally published Perspektif
Küresel COVID-19 salgını ile birlikte Türkiye’deki dört milyonu aşkın mülteci ve İdlib’de yerinden edilmiş milyonlarca sivilin belki de her zamankinden daha çok AB’nin desteğine ihtiyacı var. Bu kriz döneminde AB-Türkiye göç işbirliğini ayakta tutmak önemli, ancak iki taraf arasında yıllardır süregelen gerginlikler ve güvensizlik sebebiyle bir o kadar da zor.
A deadly attack on Turkish forces in Syria has brought Idlib’s crisis to a dangerous crossroads. In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Turkey, Syria and Russia experts explain what happened and what’s at stake.