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.
Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continued in northern Iraq and south/south east Turkey, while Ankara turned focus to Eastern Mediterranean and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In Turkey’s south east, military operations focused on rural areas of Şırnak and Hatay; PKK 29 Oct claimed 26 Oct suicide bomb attack that targeted police station in Iskenderun in Hatay province, injuring two; attack coincided with intensified military operations against the PKK in Hatay’s Amanos mountains. Air raids targeting PKK positions in northern Iraq also continued throughout month. Ankara welcomed 9 Oct agreement between Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government on security of Sinjar (see Iraq), in hope deal will help remove PKK-affiliated groups competing for control since town was liberated from Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. Govt also continued efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish political opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP): police detained more than 100 HDP members and activists throughout month, including Ayhan Bilgen, HDP’s provincial mayor in Kars city, on charges of inciting violence during Oct 2014 Kobani protests; HDP now runs only 5 of 65 municipalities it had won in 2019 local elections. Govt continued operations targeting ISIS: police detained over 150 individuals for alleged links to ISIS, the majority of them foreigners (mostly Syrian and Iraqi nationals). Meanwhile in eastern Mediterranean, renewed drilling activity and military drills fuelled tensions with Greece, despite establishment of NATO deconfliction mechanism 1 Oct (see Eastern Mediterranean). Amid ongoing hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan (see Nagorno-Karabakh), Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 6 Oct visited Baku in show of solidarity and urged Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijani territory. EU Commission’s 2020 Progress Report on Turkey 6 Oct warned of “serious backsliding in the areas of democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary”; Turkish MFA same day said report reflected “the EU’s prejudiced, unconstructive and double-standard approach”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thousands of migrants who tried to enter Europe from Turkey after the latter opened its borders in late February are stranded at the frontier. Ankara triggered this particular problem, but European states should nonetheless shoulder a larger burden in helping alleviate the broader displacement crisis.