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Turkiye in January 2023

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Turkiye in January 2023

January 5, 2023

Turkey’s defense minister and intelligence chief met with Russian and Syrian regime counterparts in Moscow on 28 December to discuss potential steps toward normalization between Ankara and Damascus. The Assad regime demanded that Turkey withdraw its forces from Syria, according to a Turkish statement the following day. For his part, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey had stressed “the necessity of resolving the Syrian crisis, including all parties, in accordance with Resolution No. 2254” during the tripartite meeting.  After the meeting, Russia appeared to pressure Turkish counterparts to set a date for a follow-up meeting at the foreign minister level, leading Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to state that a foreign ministerial meeting could potentially take place in the second half of January. Cavasoglu said that while Turkey and the Assad regime share the belief that the PKK seeks to implement a separatist agenda in Syria, the two governments have not yet formulated any plans to combat the PKK together.

Erdogan Welcomes an Israeli Ambassador Back to Ankara After Four Years of Broken Relations.

On 27 December, Turkish President Erdogan received the credentials of an Israeli ambassador to Ankara, ending a four-year diplomatic estrangement during which Israel had no ambassador in Turkey.  The Turkish media outlet Daily Sabah reported that the restoration of the Israeli ambassador was a key part of Ankara’s intensified efforts to restore relations with regional neighbors, including not just Israel, but also Armenia, Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan Foils Opposition’s Push for Early Elections.

Last week President Erdogan announced his intention for Turkey to hold its next elections not earlier than April 30, 2023, a decision he reached after meeting with his coalition partner Devlet Bahceli, head of Turkey’s far-right MHP party.  Opposition groups had requested to hold the elections before April 6, the date on which election law amendments that are expected to negatively affect the opposition’s chances will go into effect.  Erdogan’s AKP party argued that current parliamentary conditions do not support conducting early elections before April 6, since doing so would require either that 360 members of parliament agree to dissolve the body, or the President himself to dissolve parliament.  In a signal that the presidential campaign has begun in earnest, Erdogan launched a massive social media blitz touting his government’s accomplishments in 2022. Elsewhere, however, one notable Turkish commentator published an analysis indicating that Erdogan’s AKP is likely to lose the presidency if the opposition parties can remain unified in the elections.

06 January 2023

  1. U.S. Government Adopts Ankara’s Preferred Spelling of the “Republic of Türkiye” (The Daily Sabah). The State Department has instructed that new official documents refer to Türkiye instead of Turkey, although the pronunciation will not change, officials said. But neither the State Department website nor the Foreign Affairs Manual, which guides U.S. diplomatic practices, had been revised to reflect the change as of midday Thursday

9 January  2023

The Turkish opposition accused President Erdogan of making deals with Russia to influence Turkiye’s upcoming elections.

Russia announced postponing 20 billion dollars of Turkiye’s debt for Russian natural gas deliveries even though Turkiye has announced it will soon extract its own gas. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed that the delay of the Turkish debt was a Russian attempt to influence the elections. Former Undersecretary of Labor and Social Security Birol Aydemir questioned why Russia, a country at war and facing its own economic crisis, would do Turkiye such a favor and demanded that the government make public the terms of the agreement, including any political or economic concessions made. Meanwhile, the Turkish opposition parties announced on Monday that they will nominate one candidate from the opposition factions to run against Erdogan for the presidency and will announce their nominee in February. The opposition parties also announced they aim to return Turkiye to a parliamentary form of government, reversing Erdogan’s transformation to a presidential system via a constitutional referendum in 2017.

Concerning Turkiye’s position on the accession of Sweden into NATO

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Sunday that “Turkey maintains that we did what we said we would do, but they also say they want things that we can’t give them or we don’t want to.” Kristersson noted that Turkiye has demanded Sweden agree to the extradition of a journalist suspected of being a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkiye blames for the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

Turkish intelligence sources claimed to have killed PKK military leader Zaki Gurbuz

in an operation in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah. On 6 January, Turkish intelligence sources told Turkiye’s Andalou news agency that Gurbuz, who went by the nom de guerre of “Ahmed Shoresh,” had become a leader of the PKK’s operations in Turkey in 2008 and then made his way to Greece, where he was arrested in 2012. After being released by the Greeks in 2013, Gurbuz had traveled to Iraq and then relocated to Syria in 2019. The Turkish intelligence sources said Gurbuz had been responsible for attacks against Turkiye in April and August 2022.

After being released by the Greeks in 2013, Gurbuz had traveled to Iraq and then relocated to Syria in 2019. The Turkish intelligence sources said Gurbuz had been responsible for attacks against Turkiye in April and August 2022.

10 January 2023

  1. Turkish Forces Wounded in SDF Missile Strike on Turkish Base North of Aleppo (Shaam News). Activists said that four Turkish soldiers were wounded, and the condition of one of them is serious, as a result of a missile strike by the “SDF” targeting the “Scientific Research” military base, east of the city of Azaz. The Turkish army responded by targeting the strongholds of the “SDF” in the vicinity of the city of Tal Rifaat with artillery.

11 January 2023

  1. Türkiye Announces New Drug Eradication Operations (Daily Sabah). Police seized some 692 synthetic drug pills, 41 grams of methamphetamine, 246 grams of herbal cannabis, four historical artifacts, 1,322 liters of moonshine and several weapons during the operation. Via anti-drug trafficking police operations, which have increased in the last couple of years, the country has also achieved progress in meth seizures, with the Interior Ministry noting that as of December 2022, a total of 15 tons of methamphetamine was seized across Türkiye.

12 January 2023

1 . Turkish, Syrian, Russian Foreign Ministers Set to Meet ‘Soon’ (Daily Sabah). The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the meeting could happen either before or after Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the United States on Jan. 18. “Discussions are continuing (and) an exact date is not yet set. There are no problems with the meeting, they are just working on the timing,” the official said, adding it would occur in either Moscow or another location.

 

13 January 2023

  1. Turkish Prosecutors Launch Probe of Provocation in Sweden Targeting Turkish President (Andalou Agency). “A criminal complaint has been filed with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, demanding that an investigation be launched into the perpetrators due to the criminal acts targeting our President,” Erdogan’s lawyer Huseyin Aydin said on Twitter…In the demonstration, staged across from Stockholm’s City Hall, supporters of the PKK/YPG terror group hung a figure of Erdogan in effigy by the feet.
  2. After a Demonstration Targeting Erdogan, Turkey Summons the Swedish Ambassador and Hints at Blocking NATO Accession (Al Jazeera). On Thursday the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Swedish ambassador to Ankara, Staffan Herstom, to protest against what it considered an incitement campaign in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, by the PKK against Turkey, and Ankara hinted at its intention to reject Stockholm’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

16 January  2023

New Friction Among Ankara, Washington, and Stockholm

Last week brought new friction among the United States, Turkiye, and NATO hopeful Sweden. Despite U.S. lawmakers’ public warnings that they will object to the potential sale of U.S. F-16s to Turkiye, Turkish media outlets Anadolu Agency and the Daily Sabah reported that the State Department has conveyed to Congress its intention to approve the F16 sale in exchange for Turkiye approving Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. President Erdogan, however, publicly condemned Sweden’s reluctance to extradite 130 Swedish residents that Turkiye has accused of terrorism and warned that if Sweden does not do more to quash “the ongoing terrorist PKK/PYD propaganda” then Turkiye’s parliament will not ratify Sweden’s NATO membership. Erdogan’s warnings came just days after PKK supporters staged a demonstration in Stockholm during which they hanged Erdogan in effigy.

17 January 2023

  1. Ankara Urges US to Preserve Balance in Ties with Türkiye, Greece (Anadolu Agency). Balance has begun to deteriorate in US relations with Türkiye,Greece and between Turkish, Greek Cypriots, says Turkish foreign minister.

18 January 2023

  1. Turkish Defense Minister: Sweden and Finland Do Not Fulfill their Obligations (Anadolu agency). [Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar] stressed that Ankara is waiting to see concrete steps from the two countries regarding ending support for terrorist organizations and lifting export restrictions to Turkey.
  2. Pentagon: Turkey is an Important Partner in the Region and the World (Anadolu agency). Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder said the decision to provide Turkey with F-16 fighters is up to the Congress, adding that Anka is an “important partner” for his country not only in the region, but also globally.
  3. Joint Statement After Iran’s FM Meeting with Erdogan and Türkiye’s FM (Hurriyet). After the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu and Iranian Foreign Minister Emir-Abdullahiyan held a joint press conference. Regarding the meeting, Minister Çavuşoğlu said, “We have received instructions from our president for the Iranian President’s visit to our country, and we will make preparations. We evaluated our bilateral relations in all aspects during the meetings we held today. We also agree on the increase of mutual investments. We also had efforts to increase our natural gas supply from Iran.”

19 January 2023

  1. Details of Cavusoglu’s Visit to the United States (Sky News Arabia). US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted his Turkish counterpart in Washington for the first time since the Biden administration took office nearly two years ago, in a visit dominated by the F-16 deal, the Ukraine war, and Ankara’s refusal to agree to grant NATO membership to Sweden and Finland. The Biden administration expressed its support for the sale of aircraft to Turkey, despite the opposition of the US Congress because of “Ankara’s controversial human rights record and its policy towards Syria,” as part of the administration’s efforts to preserve NATO unity in the face of the Russian military attack on Ukraine.

20 January 2023

  1. Greek PM: “We Will Not Go to War with Turkey” (Ahram Online) “We will not go to war with Turkey,” Mitsotakis said during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. “We should be able to sit down with Turkey as reasonable adults and resolve our main difference, which is the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean…I also think it’s never helpful to…weaponize foreign policy for domestic reasons. It’s usually not a good approach because you end up poisoning your public opinion.” Both he and Erdogan face elections in the first half of this year.
  2. TRNC Slams UN Peacekeeping Force for Blocking Entrance to Taksim Field (Anadolu Agency). The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) slammed the UN Peacekeeping Force on Thursday for blocking the entrance to Taksim Field, which is located in the buffer zone on the border with the Greek side. “We do not accept the UN Peacekeeping Force’s attitude to prevent physical access to the area in question. Taksim Field, which has great importance in the just struggle of the Turkish Cypriot people, in its history and past, both in terms of sports and culture, has been in use by the Cetinkaya Sports Club since 1930,” the Presidency of the TRNC said in a statement. Installing barbed wire at the gates, damaging the historical Lefkosa walls and placing block barriers not only violates the status quo but also causes deprivation of rights, it said.
  3. Türkiye, US Agree to Continue to Hold F-35 Talks (Daily Sabah). Turkish and American defense ministry delegations have agreed to continue to hold consultative talks on F-35 fighter jets, said the Defense Ministry on Thursday. Türkiye had ordered more than 100 F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp. In 2019, the U.S. suspended Türkiye from the F-35 fighter jet program after objecting to the latter purchasing the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
  4. Ex-US Senior Official Bolton Snubbed over Turkish Elections Meddling Call (Daily Sabah). Former United States National Security Adviser John Bolton faced harsh criticism on Thursday after calling for NATO to expel Türkiye and extend support to opposition parties in the upcoming elections. “Bolton, who previously admitted that he supported coups, called on NATO to intervene in the elections in Türkiye. It is a futile effort to try to take the democratic will of the Turkish nation under tutelage,” said Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın. “Gone are the days when you played colonial governor,” Kalın wrote on Twitter, citing Bolton’s opinion article – titled “NATO’s Electoral Message for (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan” – which was published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

23 January 2023

Sweden’s bid for NATO membership may be facing a dead end after the leader of a Danish far-right political party burned the Quran in front of Turkiye’s embassy in Stockholm last week. Ankara cancelled the Swedish defense minister’s visit to Turkiye in response to Sweden’s permission for a planned burning of the Quran. Demonstrators in front of the Swedish consulate in Istanbul called upon the Turkish government “to sever its relations with Sweden.”

Turkish foreign affairs minister Cavsuoglu’s visit to Washington last week came with Turkiye’s request to finalize a deal for Turkiye to purchase F-16s–a deal Senator Bob Menendez has vowed to block. Cavsuoglu urged the U.S. Congress not to consider the Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid and the purchase of the fighters as related issues. In a joint U.S.-Turkish statement released after Cavusoglu’s meetings, the sides announced they have agreed to continue holding consultative talks on the purchase of F-35 jets.

Turkish media reported that Mr. Cavusoglu also “criticized the U.S. for losing its policy of balance regarding ongoing tensions between Turkiye and Greece.”

Syrian opposition media reported that Ankara asked Washington to appoint a special US envoy for Syria to ensure increased US interest in Syria and reduce the influence of Brett McGurk, coordinator for the Middle East and Africa.

Six million members of Turkiye’s Generation X will be voting this year in Turkiye. During a youth conference in northwestern Bursa province, President Erdogan announced that elections will be held on May 14, almost one month before they were scheduled.

24 January 2023

  1. Deepening Cracks in Turkiye’s Six-Party Opposition Alliance (Daily Sabah). As Türkiye inches ever closer to its next presidential and parliamentary elections likely scheduled for May 14, the opposition’s unknown candidate to rival incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains a source of uncertainty for the Nation Alliance.
  2. Türkiye ‘OK’ with Sweden and Finland if Promises are Fulfilled: Akar (Daily Sabah). “We want them to end the heinous, despicable attempts on their lands. If these are accomplished, we have no problem with them,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in Ankara amid renewed strain between his country and Sweden.
  3. Turkiye Completes the Construction of the Black Sea Gas Pipeline and its Measurement Station (Anadolu Agency). The Turkish Petroleum Transport Company “Botaş” completed the construction of the station for measuring the quantities of natural gas extracted from the Sakarya field in the Black Sea, and its land transport line.
  4. Seven ISIS Members Arrested in Central Turkiye (Anadolu Agency). Anti-terrorism teams in the central province of Yozgat carried out raids at several addresses, during which they were able to arrest 7 people from Iraq and Syria, on charges of participating in terrorist activities within the ranks of ISIS, including an executioner in the organization.

25 January 2023

  1. Sweden Wants to Restart Dialogue with Türkiye after Quran Burning (Daily Sabah). Sweden wants to resume dialogue with Türkiye, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Tuesday, shortly after the latter announced that it has canceled upcoming talks with Stockholm and Helsinki on their NATO membership following the Quran burning incident on the weekend. “Our collective message is that we want to call for calm, for reflection, for calm in the process so that we can return to functioning talks between Sweden, Finland and Türkiye on our common NATO membership,” Kristersson told a news conference, adding that he wanted a return to “dialogue.”
  2. Turkey:  No Normalization with Damascus at the Expense of the Syrians (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Turkey has renewed its assurances that it will not take any decision in the path of normalization from the regime of President Bashar al-Assad that would harm the Syrians residing there or those in the opposition-held areas in northern Syria. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed that his country will not take any decision that would harm the Syrians in Turkey or those residing in northwestern Syria.

26 January 2023

  1. Amid NATO Row, Finland Approves First Military Exports to Türkiye since 2019 (Daily Sabah). The move comes amid a spat that saw Türkiye on Tuesday indefinitely postpone upcoming talks with Finland and Sweden on their application to join the military alliance after a weekend protest in Stockholm that drew condemnation from Ankara. 
  2. Russia Attacks Turkish Ships in Kherson Port in Ukraine (Hurriyet). Turkish ships at anchor in Ukraine ‘s Kherson port were damaged by Russian missiles on Wednesday.

27 January 2023

  1. Due to the “Current Political Environment,” Turkiye Postpones the Next Tripartite Meeting with Sweden and Finland (Anadolu Agency). Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint news conference with his Serbian counterpart that a meeting to be held under the June 2022 tripartite memorandum signed by Türkiye, Finland, and Sweden is “meaningless.”
  2. Turkish Foreign Minister Slams Former Secretary of State Pompeo Over Allegations in Pompeo’s New Book (Anadolu Agency). In a joint news conference with Thailand’s Foreign Minister in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu denied Pompeo’s claim that the U.S. had to partner with the YPG because Turkiye was not capable of combating ISIS. Cavusoglu said, “The only NATO army which took part in hand-to-hand fights against Daesh/ISIS terrorists is the Turkish army. We eliminated more than 4,500 Daesh terrorists both in Syria and Iraq.” Cavusoglu also spoke about Erdogan’s October 2019 meeting with Vice President Pence and said that when Secretary Pompeo was not allowed to enter the one-on-one meeting between Erdogan and Pence, Pompeo had a “meltdown.”

31 January 2023

  1. President Erdogan:  Turkiye May Respond Differently to Finland’s NATO Bid (Anadolu Agency). Türkiye may respond “differently” to Finland’s NATO bid which would “shock” Sweden, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “We may respond differently to Finland if necessary. Sweden would be shocked when we respond differently to Finland. But Finland should not make the same mistake,” Erdogan said at a meeting with the youth in the country’s Bilecik province. Ankara gave a list of 120 people to Sweden for extradition to Türkiye, Erdogan said, adding: “You need to extradite these terrorists so that you can enter NATO,” or a different response may “shock” Sweden. 
  2. The Chairman of the Future Party, Ahmet Davutglu, Explains the Delay in Nominating a Presidential Candidate to Oppose Erdogan (Cumhuriyet). In his speech at the 30th Provincial Presidents Meeting, Davutuglu said, “With the Joint Policies Consensus, we have announced the text that will be seen as a government program by anyone who looks sincerely and without prejudice in more than 2,500 articles.” Pointing to the criticisms against the six-party opposition coalition still not announcing its presidential candidate, Davutoğlu said “We haven’t named the presidential opponent, because for us, the system is what is important, not the person.”

 UN Chemical Weapons Watchdog Finds Assad Responsible, and Russia Complicit, in 2018 Chemical Attack

On January 27, the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons issued a long-awaited investigation report concluding that the Assad regime carried out a chemical weapon attack against civilians in the city of Douma in April 2018. Significantly, the UN report contained details that for the first time indicated that Russia helped facilitate the attack.

The Assad regime predictably denied the UN’s findings, but the foreign ministers of the United States, the UK, France, and Germany issued a joint statement condemning Assad’s use of chemical weapons and calling on Russia to stop shielding Assad from accountability. Turkiye and Qatar issued similar statements supporting the OPCW report.

The OPCW’s findings could be a serious obstacle to governments that hope to normalize relations with the Assad regime. On January 29, President Erdogan gave a campaign speech reiterating his recent calls for diplomatic outreach to Assad and made a new offer for Tehran’s participation in the proposed talks. But on the same day, US Treasury Undersecretary Brian Nelson vitisted Oman, the UAE, and Turkiye to warn that countries dealing with the US-sanctioned government of Russia, Iran, and Syria could lose access to the markets of the G7 countries as a result. Nelson’s warning aligned with a statement from the US Congress calling for “no normalization” for the “pariah” Assad. The sharply contrasting statements from Ankara and Washington demonstrate that Erdogan’s gambit with Assad could be on a collision course with the US government’s sanctions strategy.

 

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