Crisis Group has worked in Türkiye 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 Türkiye 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.
Low-cost and high-performing, Turkish-made armed drones are capturing an increasing share of the global market. This success comes with risks, including escalation of conflict and reputational damage, but there are several ways for Ankara to manage them.
Islamic State (ISIS) conducted first attack in seven years, killing one and prompting intensified crackdown, while clashes with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) killed over dozen soldiers in Iraq, prompting wave of airstrikes.
ISIS killed one in first attack since Jan 2017. In first claimed attack on Turkish soil in over seven years, ISIS 28 Jan carried out armed assault on Italian Catholic Church located on outskirts of Istanbul, killing one individual. Subsequently, security forces conducted series of raids in Istanbul, detaining nearly 50 ISIS-linked suspects, including two assailants identified as nationals from Russia and Tajikistan. Detentions brought total number of individuals apprehended by security forces (including foreign nationals) during Jan to 280. Earlier, security units 1 Jan apprehended alleged ISIS ring leader Abdullah al-Jundi in northern Syria.
Clashes with PKK killed more than a dozen Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq. Late Dec spate of attacks on Turkish troops in northern Iraq continued, as PKK 5 Jan killed five soldiers in attack on military base and clash 12 Jan killed nine Turkish soldiers (see Iraq). In response, military 12-16 Jan launched airstrikes in both northern Iraq and Syria, targeting PKK/People’s Protection Units militants as part of strikes on 114 targets in both countries; military’s intensified shelling in northern Syria marked unusually high level for winter months (see Syria). In south east Türkiye, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya 16 Jan announced security forces had destroyed eighteen PKK winter shelters in drone strikes in rural areas.
Parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO bid, govt actively engaged abroad. Parliament 23 Jan ratified Sweden’s membership to NATO; Ankara expects U.S. to greenlight sale of F-16s in return. Relations with Greece remained on course for improvement, although Greece’s steps to purchase U.S. jets and combat ships stoked concern in Ankara. Attempting to play constructive role in Ukraine-Russia war (see Ukraine), Erdoğan 5 Jan told Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Türkiye was ready to host peace talks. Govt continued to voice strong opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza (see Israel-Palestine); police 2 Jan detained 34 people on suspicion of working for Israeli intelligence. Iranian President Raisi 24 Jan visited Ankara, meeting President Erdoğan; pair called for end to Israeli attacks in Gaza.
Especially after the elections in Turkey, the EU is looking for new ways of having a more constructive and less acrimonious relationship with Turkey.
The success of Ankara's mediation [over Gaza] will depend on how much influence the political wing of Hamas has on the armed wing.
Ankara remains intent on further pushing back against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] and its affiliates in the region.
If the UN fails to extend its operation [in Syria] via these [Turkish border] crossings, donor states should bypass the UN and do bilateral assistance themselves.
Less escalation in the conflict with the PKK may give authorities [in Türkiye] struggling with how to respond to this unprecedented crisis one less thing to worry about.
Attacks [from the PKK] this year show that they still have the capacity to carry out sensational attacks in Türkiye’s cities.
Relations between Ankara and Brussels have been warming despite democratic backsliding in Türkiye. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can deepen this trend, cooperating with Türkiye in areas of mutual interest.
UN diplomacy aimed at reunifying Cyprus has been drifting since talks broke down in 2017. The Secretary-General should appoint an envoy to draft a roadmap with sufficient incentives to bring both Greek and Turkish Cypriots back to the table.
Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Ankara has been drawn ever deeper into the crisis. Its approach will likely hold steady for now. But the choices it makes next matter for the fate of millions of Syrians.
In this online event, Crisis Group’s experts and external speakers discussed the extent to which hydrocarbons have shaped conflict dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean and the prospects for effective gas diplomacy, in particular.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker speaks with Crisis Group’s Türkiye Director Nigar Göksel about the Turkish elections and how President Erdoğan’s new term might shape the country’s domestic and foreign policy.
Major gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean seabed over the last ten years have fuelled ambitions to link the region’s energy markets and, in turn, bring its countries in conflict to the negotiating table. These great expectations have proven outsized, but smaller-scale objectives are achievable.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots have moved farther apart since a failed summit in 2017, hampering cooperation in several important matters and increasing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. Hopes for reunifying Cyprus are faint at present, but the parties can still work toward more modest goals.
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