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.
Military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) continued in northern Iraq and south-eastern Turkey, while govt intensified efforts to criminalise pro-Kurdish political opposition; tensions with Greece persisted. In northern Iraq, Turkey expanded military operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) while Iraqi President Salih 16 July called for international stance against Turkey’s violations of Iraqi territorial sovereignty (see Iraq). In Turkey’s south east, security forces continued operations against PKK; PKK reportedly launched attacks 17 July in Hakkari-Şemdinli, 20 July in Hakkari-Çukurca and 26 July in Nusaybin city,Mardin province. 20 July marked 5th anniversary of ceasefire breakdown between PKK and Turkey; since then conflict has claimed at least 5,000 fatalities in Turkey and northern Iraq. In northern Syria, low-intensity clashes continued between Turkish security forces and People’s Protection Units (YPG) (see Syria). Govt intensified steps toward criminalising members of Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP): over 100 pro-Kurdish HDP members were detained during month; out of 65 municipalities HDP won in March 2019 elections, 51 now run by state-appointed “trustees”. Govt continued crackdown on Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey: security personnel reportedly detained over 90 individuals with suspected ISIS links throughout month. Tensions persisted with Greece over maritime boundaries: following late June phone call between Turkish and Greek leaders, Turkish FM 14 July said “we can solve these issues through dialogue”. However, Turkish drilling activity continued, prompting Athens 21 July to lodge diplomatic protest with Ankara (see Cyprus); Greek military recorded near-daily airspace violations by Turkish aircrafts during first three weeks of July. In meeting with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Ankara, Turkish FM 6 July said Turkey will not hesitate to reciprocate new European measures against it for Eastern Mediterranean drilling; Borrell said EU-Turkey relations are not “passing through the best moment”. Following Turkish-backed forces advance in Libya, Turkish delegation 3 July met Libyan PM Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and visited military training sites; Ankara 5 July announced that al Jufra airbase and Sirte were Turkey’s next targets (see Libya).
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.
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.
[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.
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