Turkey faces myriad internal and external challenges, including an escalating conflict with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, a crisis over three million Syrian refugees, threats posed by the Islamic State (ISIS), and growing social and political polarisation exacerbated by a July 2016 coup attempt. Crisis Group maintains a unique tracker of the death toll in the PKK conflict and conducts field research to prevent, mitigate or end deadly violence and its consequences. Our ten-year-old presence in Turkey puts us in a unique position to engage the government and all parties not just on domestic crises but also to help Turkey stabilise its exceptionally turbulent neighbourhood.
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.
Tensions continued between Turkey, Greece and EU in Eastern Mediterranean; security forces stepped up offensives against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq; and military operations continued in north-eastern Syria and south-eastern Turkey. In northern Iraq, Turkey 14-15 June heavily bombed PKK positions around Sinjar and Qandil mountains ahead of ground offensive on 17 June, ostensibly in response to uptick in PKK attacks on Turkish military in region; Defence Ministry 28 June said one Turkish soldier killed and PKK fighter “neutralised” same day. In Turkey’s south east, military continued operations against PKK, particularly in rural areas of Şırnak, Hakkari and Bitlis; PKK-attributed roadside bomb 18 June killed four state construction workers in Şırnak’s Silopi district. Govt continued efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish political opposition; security forces detained over 60 pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members. Parliament 4 June stripped two HDP MPs of immunity after Supreme Court upheld conviction for “membership of an armed terrorist organisation”; HDP 15 June organised march on capital to protest but faced clampdown by Turkish police. In north-eastern Syria, low-intensity clashes continued between Turkish security forces and People’s Protection Units (YPG) (see Syria). In Libya, where Tripoli-based govt made significant military gains during month, Turkish FM 10 June labelled Egypt’s 7 June call for ceasefire “stillborn” and called for talks under UN auspices. High-level Turkish delegation 17 June visited Tripoli, Libya, reportedly to discuss offensive and business contracts (see Libya). Meanwhile, amid rising tensions in Eastern Mediterranean as Turkish drilling continues in maritime areas claimed by Republic of Cyprus (see Cyprus), Turkish military 11 June prevented Greek vessel, operating under EU naval mission enforcing Libya arms embargo, from inspecting cargo ship bound to Libya from Turkey, raising further tensions with Greece and EU. Military 12 June conducted naval and air exercises in Eastern Mediterranean, and next day held joint submarine drills with Italy near Libya’s coast. Govt continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey: security personnel throughout month reportedly detained over 100 individuals with suspected ISIS links, including 18 June arrest of high-ranking ISIS member in Gaziantep.
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.
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.
Escalation is likely going to continue [in Syria] as long as Turkey and Russia cannot agree on a new cease-fire.
L'EI constitue toujours une menace qui pourrait métastaser si les FDS voient leur attention et leurs ressources détournées [...] au profit d'une bataille défensive contre la Turquie.
[By deciding to withdraw its troops from North East Syria] the United States just threw away the last leverage it had.
Even if efforts to create a 'buffer zone' [in Northern Syria] succeed, the underlying source of tension will remain and with it, the potential for a Turkish military response to Ankara's perceived YPG threat.
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.
Last weekend, the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia met in Ankara to discuss, among other things, the latest developments in Syria amid Turkish concerns over the consequences of a Syrian government offensive in the last rebel enclave, Idlib.
Originally published in Valdai