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.
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.
Month saw continued clashes between military and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), pressure on pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and operations against PKK targets in northern Iraq, as well as concern over risks stemming from an all-out regime offensive against Idlib in northwest Syria, and tensions with the U.S.. Military operations against PKK in south east continued, with almost 40 casualties reported during month, mostly PKK militants. Crackdown on pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and sister Democratic Regions’ Party (DBP) continued. Two former HDP MPs were arrested 13 Aug on charges of “terrorism propaganda” over content of recent speeches; DBP co-mayor and HDP local official were among twelve arrested for suspected involvement in alleged PKK bomb attack 16 Aug. Ground operation in northern Iraq continued along with major air operations against PKK targets; President Erdoğan and Iraqi PM Abadi 14 Aug agreed on full cooperation against PKK. Amid spectre of all-out Russian-backed assault by Syrian regime on Syrian opposition stronghold Idlib, north-west Syria (see Syria) and fears of accompanying influx of refugees into Turkey, Ankara 15 Aug called on Syrian regime to terminate its military operation in Idlib and made diplomatic efforts with Russia to broker deal. Despite ongoing cooperation in Syria’s Manbij, U.S.-Turkey frictions increased: U.S. 1 Aug imposed sanctions on Turkish justice and interior ministers over Turkey’s refusal to free jailed U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, subject of 3 Aug discussion between FMs, while diplomatic delegations met in Washington 7 Aug in attempt to resolve crisis. U.S. 10 Aug doubled tariffs on Turkish aluminium and steel products, contributing to sharp devaluation of Turkish Lira during first half of Aug; Trump 13 Aug signed bill blocking Turkey’s access to F-35 fighter jets; Erdoğan 14 Aug called for boycott of U.S. electronic products and 15 Aug hiked tariffs on U.S. products. Ankara 22 Aug accused U.S. of waging “economic war”, 27 Aug said U.S. sanctions could destabilise region, and exacerbate terrorism and refugee crisis. Lira slightly recovered toward end of month after Central Bank measures and Qatari Emir’s 15 Aug pledge for $15bn in direct investment. Turkish court 14 Aug ordered release of two Greek soldiers held since March for illegal border crossing and military espionage.
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.
Ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June, opinion polls suggest a tighter race than many anticipated. The country’s Kurds could be kingmakers, prompting politicians of different stripes to court their votes and opening much-needed debate about longstanding Kurdish demands.
The quarrel between Gulf monarchies has spilled into Somalia, with the fragile state now caught between the rival interests of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The competition has already aggravated intra-Somali disputes. All sides should take a step back before these tensions mount further.
Host community hostility toward Syrian refugees is on the rise in Turkey’s metropolitan areas. In order to defuse tensions and mitigate rising intercommunal tensions, Ankara and its international partners should support long-term strategies for the Syrians’ sustainable integration.
The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates face a stark choice: risk their gains in northern Syria through continued prioritisation of the PKK's fight against Turkey, or pursue local self-rule in the area they have carved out of the chaos of the Syrian war.
The sense of public spaces [in Turkey] becoming more unsafe is fed by the tendency of criminal networks to use Syrian men and women for theft, prostitution drug sales and the like, and Syrians are blamed for disruption of public order and safety.
The success of the AKP-MHP partnership shows that the Islamist-nationalist fusion is alive and kicking in Turkish society.
Russia needs both the Syrian regime and Turkey. So it has to give a little bit to both and it has to ... make them equally angry, if that's what it wants.
The most worrisome development that we saw was that among Turkish citizens there is a negative stance towards the long-term integration of Syrians across the political spectrum.
Saying that Afrin will be returned to its rightful owners will leave many people wondering if they can return after the fighting [between Turkey and Kurdish forces in northern Syria] is over.
[If Washington and Ankara do not set the necessary de-escalation mechanism], things could get especially messy if Turkey expands operation to Manbij as U.S. and Turkish forces could collide.
Crisis Group's Europe & Central Asia Program Director Magdalena Grono talks about the relations between Russia and Turkey as they reflect on the Black Sea and the South Caucasus.
Ein Gespräch mit Berkay Mandıracı von der „International Crisis Group Istanbul“ über soziale Spannungen in türkischen Großstädten, die Unterstützung der EU und die Rolle der Flüchtlinge in der türkischen Außenpolitik.
Originally published in Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung
Çok sayıda Suriyeliye ev sahipliği yapan ve son dönemde kimi sosyal gerilimlerin yaşandığı İstanbul, Ankara ve İzmir’in bazı mahallelerinde kapsamlı saha araştırmamızın sonucunda 29 Ocak 2018 tarihinde “Türkiye’deki Suriyeliler: Kentsel Gerilimleri Azaltmak” adlı raporumuz İngilizce olarak yayınlandı. Bu Bilgi Notu, özellikle Ankara karar alıcıları ve yereldeki yetkili mercilere yönelik rapordaki çözüm önerilerini özetlemektedir.