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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.


CrisisWatch Turkey

Unchanged Situation

Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) reduced in intensity in country’s south east and northern Iraq, relations soured with U.S. over further sanctions, and were strained with Russia over Idlib escalation. Fatalities in PKK conflict remained low; security forces focused operations in Tunceli province in south east and maintained air raids and land operations against PKK militants in northern Iraq. Govt sustained efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Besides continued arrests/detentions of HDP officials and members, eight more trustees were appointed to HDP-run municipalities during month (32 out of 69 municipalities HDP won in March 2019 are now run by trustees). Cooperation continued with Russia in north east (NE) Syria, but was strained over escalation in north west (NW): Turkish defence ministry 8 Dec announced deal with Russia to connect areas under control of Turkish-backed Syrian forces to Syrian regime-controlled power plant and demilitarise M4 highway across northern Syria, while Turkish forces continued joint patrols with Russian military units in NE Syria. Ankara reacted harshly to intensified regime and Russian military operations in Syria’s NW which displaced thousands. The fourteenth round of Syria talks with Turkey, Russia and Iran was held in Kazakhstan 10 Dec (see Syria). Relations with U.S deteriorated as U.S. Congress 17 Dec passed National Defense Authorization Act banning transfer of U.S. F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Senate 12 Dec passed previously blocked resolution recognising mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire as genocide. President Erdoğan 15 Dec threatened to shut down İncirlik Air Base and Kürecik Radar Station used by U.S and NATO forces. Govt continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) networks; police detained over 100 suspected ISIS-linked individuals in Dec including Turkish and foreign nationals. Relations with EU still strained particularly over Cyprus/East Med gas drilling. Following controversial maritime border deal between Turkey and Libya’s Govt of National Accord (GNA) in Nov, parliamentary debate took place 30 Dec on bill that (if approved 2 Jan) would authorise Turkey to send troops to Libya in support of GNA (see Cyprus and Libya).

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

8 Oct 2019
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. Le Nouvel Obs

Sam Heller

Senior Analyst, Non-state Armed Groups
7 Oct 2019
[By deciding to withdraw its troops from North East Syria] the United States just threw away the last leverage it had. The New York Times

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
28 Sep 2019
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. AFP

Dareen Khalifa

Senior Analyst, Syria
23 Jul 2019
Today's news that Turkey's suspended the readmission agreement with the EU will not make much practical difference for either Brussels or Ankara nor for refugees/migrants. Twitter

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey
8 Jan 2019
Turkey has only one interest, which is to defeat the YPG. So that is what it is going to do. AFP

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
4 Sep 2018
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. Al-Monitor

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey

Latest Updates

Report / Europe & Central Asia

Mitigating Risks for Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa

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.

Also available in Türkçe

Prospects for a Deal to Stabilise Syria’s North East

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.

Also available in العربية, Türkçe

How Turkey’s Ties to the West May Survive the Syrian War

Crisis Group's Middle East & North Africa Program Director Joost Hiltermann participated in the 2018 Körber Policy Game, designed to explore possible outcomes in the event of a crisis between Turkey and the West in Syria. While the exercise underscored many of the Syrian conflict's complexities, it also revealed that a strong desire by stakeholders to find common ground can help overcome them.

Video: Russia and Turkey in the Black Sea and the South Caucasus

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.

Our People

Alçay Akay

Office Manager, Turkey

Nigar Göksel

Project Director, Turkey

Berkay Mandıracı

Analyst, Turkey