Turkiye in December 2022

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Turkiye in December 2022

Desember 1 , 2022

Turkey-Syria Border Crisis:  Turkey Prepares for Ground Invasion of Syria

Northern Syria is experiencing its deepest crisis since the end of the battle for Idlib in early 2020. On 1 December, Turkey’s national security council appeared to signal its readiness to conduct a ground offensive into Syria to target the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which is the core component of the US-sponsored Syrian Democratic Forces. The council declared that Turkey “will take necessary steps against terrorists and will not allow [the] presence of any terrorist group on its southern borders.” Ankara’s signal is the latest development in three weeks of rising tensions. In the aftermath of the 13 November Istanbul terrorist bombing which killed 6 people, Turkey launched airstrikes and prepared for a ground offensive into northern Syria. Turkish authorities said Ankara is acting within its rights to preserve the country’s national security after attacks they claim originated from the PKK-affiliated YPG inside Turkey and in Syria’s northwest. At the same time, a Syrian opposition military source told media that the YPG had launched at least 100 rocket attacks since June on areas controlled by Turkish-sponsored Syrian opposition forces, leading Turkish forces to prioritize operations to stop these attacks.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Commander of the YPG, Mazloum Kobani, denied his forces had conducted any attacks against Turkey. More importantly, he claimed that the Syrian woman arrested by Turkey for carrying out the Istanbul bombing is actually an ISIS member who had resided in northeast Syria but had no connection with the YPG. After offering condolences to the “martyrs of Damascus,” Mazloum said that the majority of casualties caused by the recent Turkish airstrikes and bombardment were not YPG fighters, but troops of the Syrian regime forces who have been guarding the borders with Turkey since 2019.

The recent Turkish strikes into northeast Syria targeted oil sites and a gas field that are among the main sources of funding for the YPG, as well as a military base for the Assad forces in the area.

Iranian militia forces in the same region reportedly withdrew from Al-Mayadeen, east of Der Ezzor, to different areas along with the Fatemiyoun, Afghani Shiite militias, for unspecified reasons.

The Commander of the Russian Forces in Syria, Alexander Chayko, flew to northeast Syria to meet with Mazloum Kobani at a YPG base near Hasakah that also hosts US forces. Chayko reportedly told Mazloum that Turkey is determined to proceed with a ground operation and that Moscow is unable to stop this operation without giving Turkey security guarantees. The Russian delegation informed Mazloum that Turkey requires the withdrawal of all PKK/YPG/Syrian Democratic Forces from Ain al-Arab, Manbij, and Tal Rifaat, and the handover of the area to Russian forces and the Assad regime’s army. Chayko claimed that this offer is the last that would be made to the YPG.

In an important development on 1 December, however, Ankara reportedly rejected a Russian offer under which Assad regime forces would replace the YPG in the border zone if Turkey agreed to give up its ground invasion. According to Turkish sources, Ankara informed the Russians that it did not consider the presence of Assad regime forces a guarantee that the YPG would vacate the border area, and Turkish leaders insisted on using military force to ensure that the YPG leave the border zone to a depth of 30 kilometers.

For more in-depth analysis of the causes and implications of this crisis, listen to a Twitter Space discussion between the Director of the American Center for Levant Studies, Joel Rayburn, and the Director of the ORSAM center in Ankara, Dr. Ahmet Uysal.

December 5, 2022

TURKEY: Seeking NATO Accession, Sweden Responds to Turkish Concerns About PKK

On 3 December, meanwhile, Sweden deported a convicted member of the PKK to Turkey. The status and treatment of the PKK in Sweden has been a point of contention for Ankara as Sweden has applied for entry into NATO. The deportation was the latest in a series of steps Sweden has taken to try to satisfy Turkey’s concerns and ease Stockholm’s NATO accession.

10 December 2022

  1. Turkey ‘neutralizes’ 4,000 terrorists in operations at home, abroad in 2022: Defense Ministry (Anadolu Agency).  Türkiye to date has neutralized 4,500 Daesh/ISIS terrorists, [Akar] said.  

11 December 2022

  1. Turkey Calls on Russia to Implement its Commitments Regarding “YPG” in Syria (Anadolu Agency).  “In its political consultations with Russia, Turkey has renewed its aspirations to implement the provisions of the memorandum of understanding signed with Moscow regarding the terrorist organization ‘PKK/YPG’ in Syria.”
  2. James Jeffrey: How the United States Can Compromise with Turkey to Avert a Syria Incursion (Foreign Policy).  Washington should build on past three-way Turkey-U.S.-SDF arrangements to put a real offer on the table.

12 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Erdogan to Putin:  Clearing the Syrian Border of Terrorists to a Depth of 30 km is a Priority (Anadolu Agency). Erdogan told his Russian counterpart of the necessity and priority of purging the Syrian border with Turkey from [PKK] terrorists, to a depth of at least 30 km, in the first phase, according to the Sochi agreement concluded in 2019.
  2. Turkey Announces the Killing of a PKK Leader in Northern Syria (Syria TV). The Turkish Defense ministry said in a statement that Turkish forces managed to kill the Fahmi Muhammad, an official of the “Afrin Liberation Forces” affiliated with the PKK organization.

TURKEY: Turkey Remains on the Brink of A New Syria Invasion; YPG Commander Says U.S. Response Has Been “Weak”

On Sunday, President Erdogan held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss regional security, economic, and energy issues.  Erdogan told Putin that Turkey still insists on removing the YPG militia from the Turkey-Syria border zone, to a depth of 30 km into Syria. Erdogan said that Russia had agreed to this point in the two countries’ 2019 deal signed in Sochi, but that Russia had thus far failed to implement its part of the agreement by compelling the YPG to leave that zone.

Previously, last Wednesday, YPG commander Mazloum Abdi told the Arabic news outlet Al Sharq al Awsat that American and Russian pressure had caused Turkey to delay its military incursion into Syria, but that the American response to Turkey’s aerial bombardment had been “weak,” especially since Turkish airstrikes had targeted locations in northeast Syria close to U.S. troops. Mazloum said that the YPG were open to the idea of integrating into the Syrian government’s military forces, provided that the YPG-backed administration of northeast Syria can retain its autonomy within Syria.  But Mazlous said that he would not go to Damascus to negotiate such a deal until “conditions for a political solution are ripe.”

Separately, former Ambassador James Jeffrey, who served at separate points as the top U.S. envoy Turkey, Iraq, and Syria, called for the United States to broker a compromise between Turkey and the YPG that could address Turkey’s security concerns but avert a Turkish military incursion into Syria.  Jeffrey said that Washington should return to the framework of earlier security arrangements in order to put a realistic offer on the table.

U.S. Sanctions Erdogan Associate for Helping Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Evade Sanctions

On Thursday the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Sitki Ayan, a prominent Turkish businessman and close associate of President Erdogan, for his role in helping Iran’s Revolutionary Guards evade U.S. sanctions.  The Treasury said that Ayan had helped the Iranian regime raise $1 billion in illicit oil revenues in 2020, and that he had done so by helping to make shipping arrangements and launder funds while hiding the IRGC’s involvement.  The Treasury also said Ayan had used his company’s accounts in Turkey to transfer about $80 million to the IRGC-Quds Force.

Lavrov Claims Turkey Agreed to “Neutralize” Syrian Opposition Factions

Last Wednesday, Putin’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told a conference in Moscow that Russia and Turkey had agreed to “sort” the Syrian opposition factions according to their willingness to have a dialogue with the Assad regime. Lavrov said that armed groups that are willing to negotiate with Assad should be “neutralized” from other Syrian opposition groups, though he gave no further details on what this “neutralization” would entail. Turkey has not corroborated Lavrov’s assertion, though Turkish Foreign Minister Cavasoglu said last month that only “reconciliation” between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime could bring stability to Syria.

13 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Erdoğan:  Turkish Missiles could Hit Athens if Greece Militarizes Aegean Islands (Turkish Minute). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Turkey could hit Athens with missiles if Greece continues to arm the Aegean islands.
  2. EU Approves $232M Border Control Package for Eastern Türkiye (Daily Sabah). The European Commission adopted a package worth 220 million euros (over $232 million) for measures to enhance security on Türkiye’s eastern border, as part of a previously signed migrant deal between the bloc and Ankara.

14 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Ankara: We are Going to Raise our Trade Exchanges with Washington to $100 Billion (Anadolu Agency). Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay said that his country and the United States are moving forward towards achieving their goal of raising trade exchange between them to $100 billion.Turkey said Tuesday it has cleared up a dispute linked to a Western price cap on Russian crude that had stalled the passage of tankers through the Bosporus and Dardanelle straits, Agence France-Presse reported.

15 DECEMBER 2022

  1. President of the Russian Duma Proposes Working With Turkey To Combat Terrorism (Syria TV). The Speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, called for an international conference to combat terrorism in Moscow, with the participation of Turkey, the Syrian regime and other countries….He pointed out that Russia “will hold a conference to discuss these files, in which Turkey, Syria, Iran , China, Pakistan and other countries will participate.”
  2. Erdoğan attends a tripartite summit with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan (Daily Sabah). Erdoğan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Turkmen leader Serdar Berdimuhamedov met in the western Turkmen city of Awaza to address steps to further deepen cooperation between the three countries in various areas, particularly in trade, energy and transportation. On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for the start of natural gas transportation from Turkmenistan to Western countries.

16 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Erdogan: I Offered Putin a Meeting between the Leaders of Turkey, Russia and Syria (Anadolu Agency). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed on Thursday that he had offered his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a tripartite meeting [among] the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Syria.
  2. Thousands Rally in Istanbul to Support Mayor Facing Ouster (Associated Press). Thousands of people gathered outside the Istanbul municipal building for a second day on Thursday to denounce a legal verdict that could lead to the city’s popular mayor Ekrem Imamoglu being ousted from office and barred from running in elections next year.

December 20, 2022

Turkey Arrests Dozens on Suspicion of Spying for Israel

On 14 December a Turkish media outlet reported that Turkey had arrested 44 people on suspicion of spying for the Israeli Mossad.  Turkish intelligence reportedly targeted “private investigators” who, on behalf of the Mossad, monitored and followed Palestinian individuals and non-governmental organizations in Turkey.  The same report said that Turkish authorities are still searching for 13 additional people suspected of spying for the Mossad.

Erdogan Calls for New Gas Route to Europe, Circumventing Russia

During the first tripartite summit between the leaders of Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, President Erdogan called for the start of natural gas transportation from Turkmenistan to Western countries. The oil pipeline linking Baku (Azerbaijan) – Tbilisi (Georgia) – Ceyhan (Turkey) and the “southern gas corridor” could serve as an alternative energy source for Europe as well as benefit the exporting countries, Erdogan said. He added that Turkey is ready to cooperate with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan regarding the operation of the “Friendship Field” for oil and gas, stressing the need to exploit new opportunities that are developing because of the recent change in the global gas market.  Erdogan’s remarks indicated that he is looking for ways to supplant Russia’s gas trade with Europe, in light of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s many areas of confrontation with Turkey, such as the Caucasus.

Erdogan Suggests Meeting with Putin and Assad

President Erdogan announced last week that he offered Russian President Vladimir Putin a tripartite meeting of himself, Putin, and Bashar al Assad.  He said that Turkey had lost patience with the United States because of U.S. support to the Syrian Democratic Forces.  Addressing the U.S., Erdogan warned, “If you will continue to supply this terrorist organization with weapons, equipment and ammunition, we will manage ourselves and we will do what is necessary to remove the threat of terrorism from our borders.” In response to a journalist’s question about a statement by former US Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, who said that Washington would not view an Erdogan-Assad meeting positively, Erdogan said: “This means that you have not known your president yet. I do not ask permission when I want to meet with anyone. I met with the Egyptian president in Qatar. I did not ask anyone’s permission, and with regard to Syria, our national interests will determine what steps we will take.”  Meanwhile, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Assad’s position on the idea of a tripartite summit was not yet known, but that Moscow was in contact with officials in Damascus.

Erdogan’s harsh comments toward the SDF/YPG came one day before a terrorist bombing in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir. A parked van exploded as an armored police van was passing by, wounding eight police officers and one civilian.

Erdogan’s Top Political Rival Gets Prison Sentence for Insulting Turkey’s Election Council

Last week a Turkish court sentenced Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to two years in prison for the crime of insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council. The court also banned Imamoglu, who is widely considered Erdogan’s leading challenger in Turkey’s next presidential election, from running for elected office.  The news of Imamoglu’s sentencing prompted protests by thousands of people who gathered outside the Istanbul municipal building to denounce the verdict. President Erdogan, however, announced to the public that there is no final decision on Imamoglu’s conviction and claimed that the ruling is not political. “There have been many court rulings that we have harshly criticized ourselves, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to insult judges or to ignore court rulings,” Erdoğan told a rally in southeast Türkiye’s Mardin.”  Imamoglu’s case resembles a similar prison sentence and political ban that a Turkish court imposed on Erdogan himself in 1998–a politically motivated sentencing that prompted large rallies of support and effectively launched Erdogan’s national political career.

22 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Lavrov Says Russia-Türkiye Trade Doubled to $45B in 2022 (Anadolu Agency). Trade between Russia and Türkiye doubled in the first nine months of this year to reach $45 billion, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday. In an online meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), Lavrov hailed the Black Sea region as “a crossroads of peoples, cultures, religions, and civilizations.”

28 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Terrorist PKK supporters disturb peace in London (Anadolu Agency). Supporters of the PKK terrorist group on Saturday clashed with police in London. Gathering in front of the French Embassy in London, a group of the terror group’s supporters chanted slogans against Türkiye and France after Friday’s shooting of Kurds in Paris.

30 DECEMBER 2022

  1. Cavusoglu:  Turkey Will Not Allow Greece to Expand “Even One Mile” in the Aegean Sea (Al Jazeera). Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stressed during the end of the year assessment meeting that his country will not allow Greece to expand “even one mile” in the territorial waters of the Aegean Sea. Cavusoglu warned Greece against being drawn into what he described as adventures and running after false antagonisms, saying, “The end will never be good for you.”
  2. PKK Cell Arrested Before Carrying out a Terrorist Operation And Istanbul Announces the Arrest of 18 Foreigners Closely Connected to ISIS, HTS, and Al Qaeda (Anadolu Agency). Turkish security took the initiative to arrest the 5 terrorists, after monitoring that they had received instructions from the Iranian “Karash” region, to carry out a terrorist operation in Turkey. Security forces also seized weapons, ammunition, wireless devices, telephones, and digital and paper documents. Security sources in Istanbul conducted simultaneous raids on 21 sites and arrested people believed to be close to the terrorist organization.



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