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.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk to expert Eleonora Tafuro, a research fellow at ISPI, to make sense of the complicated relationship between Russia and Turkey that has veered from collaborative to adversarial, often landing somewhere in between.
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).
In mid-2020, Turkey and Greece put their Mediterranean fleets on high alert, dramatically raising tensions in their long-running dispute over air, water, rock and now seabed gas deposits as well. Talks have been frustrating but remain the best way to contain the risk of conflict.
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.
Turkey can't afford economically or politically to absorb a new wave of refugees [from Syria].
How do you not lose Turkey while you try to curb Erdogan? Erdogan is trying to find a way forward when they are trying to make sure he does not score political points.
The EU has parked sanctions in the drawer for now. But, on the flip side, the bloc might not have much to offer Turkey in the way of carrots.
Drones have enabled [Turkey] to drive the PKK out of mountainous pockets where they had established a significant presence.
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.
Ankara believes it has reaped strategic benefits from military involvement in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet it has paid a price as well, discomfiting both allies and adversaries. Now, Turkey hopes to rebuild ties so as to consolidate its new gains.
Ankara is strengthening ties with Sahelian capitals, building mosques and hospitals and opening up export markets. Its defence pact with Niamey has led rivals to suspect its intentions. Turkey and other outside powers should do what they can to avoid unnecessary additional competition in the region.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope talk with Crisis Group’s Nigar Göksel about the nationalist tensions fuelling a maritime standoff between Turkey and Greece, and how coordinated efforts by regional powers can help de-escalate their dispute over the eastern Mediterranean.
2020'nin ortasında Türkiye ve Yunanistan, Akdeniz’deki filolarını üst düzey alarm seviyesine geçirdi ve hava, su, kara ve deniz dibi gaz yatakları konusunda uzun süredir devam eden anlaşmazlıklarındaki gerginlik ciddi şekilde yükseldi. Görüşmeler ağır aksak ilerliyor olsa da, çatışma riskini azaltmanın en iyi yolu iki ülkenin aralarındaki diyaloğu güçlendirmeleri.
Türkiye Direktörümüz Nigar Göksel Türkiye-Yunanistan ilişkileri raporumuzun temel bulgularını ve önerilerini Medyascope'tan Işın Eliçin ile konuştu.