New frictions in Iraq and Syria threaten Ankara and Tehran’s usually peaceful management of their Middle East rivalries. To rebuild trust and avert open conflict, they should coordinate de-escalation, exchange intelligence and designate representatives to open a new channel between their leaders.
State security forces continued operations against Kurdish PKK insurgency in SE, though number of casualties and attacks again lower than previous month. Security forces detained 26 people after car bomb attack attributed to PKK 17 Feb that killed two in Viranşehir district, Şanlıurfa province; 18 Feb two alleged PKK militants killed in Nusaybin district, where Kurdish politicians protested lockdown in Koruköy village amid unconfirmed allegations on social media of torture of civilians by security forces. Unclaimed rocket attacks in Istanbul’s Fatih district 20 Feb targeted police station and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) office; no casualties reported. Number of arrested Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP) MPs rose to thirteen. HDP 20 Feb filed complaint at European Court of Human Rights over Nov 2016 arrest and detention of co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ; Yüksekdağ stripped of seat in Parliament and Demirtaş sentenced to five months’ jail next day. President Erdoğan 10 Feb approved constitutional reform bill which would bring in presidential system, with referendum on change scheduled for 16 April. In ongoing purges following July 2016 coup attempt, govt 8 Feb dismissed 4,400 additional academics, security services, economy and foreign affairs ministry personnel. Security forces 5-6 Feb arrested over 800 alleged Islamic State (IS)-linked individuals in coordinated raids in at least 29 provinces. Ankara continued push into N Syria and offensive on Al-Bab (see Syria). Three Turkish soldiers killed in Russian airstrike near Al-Bab 9 Feb; Moscow said it was mistake and blamed poor coordination. Ankara continued to push new U.S. administration for Turkish role in Raqqa operation, condemning continued U.S. support to Kurdish YPG/PYD fighters. Tensions continue with Greece with series of standoffs over disputed islets in Aegean Sea.
Turkey is under growing pressure from nearly three million Syrian refugees. To mitigate domestic tensions and spillover from regional conflicts, Ankara needs to develop, and find support for, new policies that open refugees’ routes to jobs, education and permanent legal status.
Around 900 people, including 350 members of the security forces, have been killed in fighting since peace talks broke down last July between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey. As insurgents mix with civilians and rights are violated, some of the worst affected are ordinary people like those in south-eastern Diyarbakır’s district of Sur.
New clashes between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have deepened the country’s social cleavages, killed hundreds, and helped the Islamic State. Neither side can win militarily. To end the conflict, Turkey needs more than just a new ceasefire: a clearly defined peace process and, in parallel, a reform agenda addressing Kurdish rights.
The peace process between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is threatened by ceasefire violations and spillover from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Both sides must set aside pretexts and inertia and seize the opportunity of having powerful leaders able to implement a deal whose outlines are clearer than ever.
Continuous refugee flows from Syria are stretching Turkey’s capacities and necessitate long-term adjustments as well as stronger international engagement to better share the burden.
Turkey has always set the Euphrates as a red line [for Kurdish forces in Syria]. The problem is it will be a huge gamble to really do that with US, Russia and YPG, who are a proficient fighting force.
Both because of the Syria theater and domestic politics, it doesn’t look like either [Turkey or Kurdish militants] are going to be willing to seek an alternative route in the foreseeable future.
President Erdoğan has long seen himself as a natural ally of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East. Any action against the Muslim Brotherhood he saw as a threat to himself.
The fighting in the southeast, which reignited in July 2015, has killed 1,761 people, according to new figures released by the International Crisis Group.
The people [in Turkey] did what they needed to. They stood by the government. They showed political maturity. But now the ball is in the court of the government to reciprocate.
Either Erdogan utilizes this incident to redesign institutions in Ankara to his own benefit...or he takes the opportunity with the solidarity that was extended to him by the opposition and different segments of society to reciprocate by investing more genuinely in rule of law and legitimate forms of dissent.
On top of major challenges, including the spillover from the war in Syria, Islamic State terrorism and increasingly heavy-handed governance, Turkey's conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) also reignited last year. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to increase efforts toward two related objectives: improving relations with Ankara and finding a political end to the PKK conflict.
Originally published in The New York Times
The journey from the best to the worst of days in recent Turkish geopolitics was partly determined by a deteriorating diplomatic context. Our Director of Communications & Outreach Hugh Pope looks back on two decades of change in a keynote speech for the Dutch Peace Research Foundation’s annual prizes for best new MA theses on peace.
In this video, our Project Director for Turkey Nigar Göksel explains the main findings of Crisis Group's report Turkey’s Refugee Crisis: The Politics of Permanence and advocates a long-term strategy to integrate Syrian refugees into Turkish society.