by instituDE, published on 17 July 2023


"NATO Vilnius Summit and Sweden's NATO membership amid Ukraine War" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

After a trilateral meeting between Turkish President Erdogan, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, and Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson, it was announced that Turkey lifted its veto on Sweden's NATO membership. The Protocols on Sweden's Accession to NATO will be presented to the Turkish Grand National Assembly for ratification without delay.

Turkey's green light to Sweden was primarily shaped by the outcome of the "horse bargain" between Turkey and the US. The announcement of a bilateral meeting between Erdogan and Biden before the summit suggested that the remaining obstacles to Sweden's accession were resolved.

With the removal of obstacles for Sweden, Turkey's plans to purchase F-16 fighter jets will likely gain approval from U.S. authorities. This decision may also lead to a partial thaw in Turkey-US relations. It remains to be seen if the corruption investigation involving Bilal Erdogan by Swedish and U.S. judicial authorities will be dropped.

The Ukrainian side realizes that Ukraine's membership in NATO is unlikely as long as the war continues. Nevertheless, Ukrainian President Zelensky embarked on a diplomatic tour last week to at least get a roadmap for membership. President Erdogan expressed support for Kyiv after his meeting with Zelensky, stating that "Ukraine undoubtedly deserves NATO membership." However, suppose Ukraine was to reach the acceptance stage with the backing of Western countries. In that case, Erdogan might prioritize using the unanimity card to delay Ukraine’s membership process, as seen in the cases of Finland and Sweden.

Ukraine's prospects for NATO membership depend on the outcome of the war. If the war settles into a frozen conflict, the likelihood of membership will be highly uncertain. Regardless of whether Ukraine emerges as the victor or loser in the war, achieving peace will necessitate reaching an agreement with Russia. Undoubtedly, one of the conditions for reconciliation for Russia will be Ukraine's complete abandonment of its NATO aspirations. Consequently, it seems unlikely that Ukraine will become a NATO member in the foreseeable future.

The issues to be discussed at the summit showed once again how the war in Ukraine is profoundly shaping global security policies. These new plans and strategies provide insights into NATO's future threat perceptions, the world's largest military organization encompassing nearly a billion people. NATO's projections, unfortunately, do not paint a promising and bright picture for the future.

"Russia's war might have a new casualty: The Putin-Erdogan bond" by Robyn Dixon, Kareem Fahim and David L. Stern, The Washington Post

In Russia, where President Vladimir Putin's good relationship with Erdogan is valuable geopolitical currency, the sense that Erdogan may be flipping to a closer, more cooperative relationship with Western leaders seemed to provoke almost as much anxiety as the idea of Sweden joining NATO, raising questions about whether Russia's war has undermined one of Moscow's most valued relationships.

The Kremlin's criticism of Ankara was cautious, but Russian lawmakers and hard-line nationalists bitterly denounced Erdogan, while Russia's mainstream press questioned whether the Turkish leader is making a lasting, fundamental pivot away from Russia.

Peskov publicly downplayed Moscow's dismay that Turkey opened the gate to Sweden joining NATO, saying that Moscow understood Turkey's NATO obligations.

"This has never been a secret for us. We have never worn rose-colored glasses in this respect," Peskov said Tuesday. He said Russia would continue to pursue common interests important to both countries.

Evren Balta, a professor of political science at Istanbul's Ozyegin University, said it was "too early to say whether Turkey is turning its face to the West right now," rather than adapting to changed circumstances, including the need to attract investment as the country struggles through an economic crisis.

"Erdogan's NATO moves agitate Russia but don't spell Turkey's sharp shift to West" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor

It's just the latest retuning of Erdogan's unique balancing act in which the Turkish leader navigates Ankara's relationships in ways that he believes best benefit Turkey's interests and above all his own political survival. Turkey's flailing economy remains Erdogan's top headache ahead of municipal elections that are scheduled to be held in March 2024.

The benefits are mutual. Turkey's refusal to join sanctions against Russia makes it every bit as vital to Russia as Russia is to Turkey, if not more so, by providing a backdoor. Russian oligarchs have found safe haven in Turkey, parking their mega-yachts in Turkish ports and their money in thousands of joint ventures with Turkish partners. It's no secret that Russian gas continues to find its way to Western markets via the TANAP pipeline running from Azerbaijan to Turkey and onto Europe.

Given the mutual dependency, it was hardly surprising then that the Kremlin's assessment of Erdogan's performance at Vilnius was so bland. Russia was well aware of Turkey's NATO commitments. "This has never been a secret for us. We have never won rose-tinted spectacles in this respect," Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Tuesday. Rather, it is those who believe that Erdogan is ditching Russia who are wearing them, Aydin Sezer, a Turkish analyst of Russian affairs and a former Turkish trade attache at the Turkish Embassy in Moscow, said.

"Turkey sets new Western tilt in foreign policy as economy weighs" by Huseyin Hayatsever, Can Sezer and Burcu Karakas, Reuters

After pivoting Turkey away from Western allies, President Tayyip Erdogan has changed tack with moves that have pleased the U.S. and upset Russia, a turnaround seen aimed partly at reversing his country's economic downturn and boosting foreign investment.

Analysts believe Erdogan's moves - including his declaring support for Ukraine joining NATO - were no coincidence.

A day after Ankara gave the green light for Sweden to join NATO, Washington said it would proceed with the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in consultation with Congress.

The Kremlin said it intended to develop relations with Turkey "despite all the disagreements". "Turkey can be orientated towards the West, we know that in the history of the Republic of Turkey there have been periods of intense orientation towards the West, there have been periods of less intense orientation," Peskov said.

"But we also know that... no one wants to see Turkey in Europe, I mean the Europeans. And here our Turkish partners should not wear rose-tinted spectacles either."

Analysts believe that in addition to visa-free travel for Turks, Erdogan wants closer trading arrangements with the E.U., even if membership remains a distant prospect, linked to progress on democracy and other issues.

"Is Turkey now joining the E.U.? No, but the E.U. is engaging" by Suzanne Lynch and Jacopo Barigazzi, Politico

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest round of geopolitical brinkmanship came with a new twist this week: Linking his support for Sweden's NATO bid with Turkey's own application to join the E.U. It was an audacious move. It caught even close observers by surprise. And it has zero chance of happening any time soon.

Numerous E.U. leaders and officials did make a careful public show of treating the Turkish leader's request seriously, pledging to explore ways to revive the country's moribund E.U. accession and to work more closely with the country in the meantime. But as a serious prospect, E.U. membership was discarded almost instantly. 

"Pure posture," quipped one former European Commission official who worked on Turkey's E.U. bid. "You cannot link the two processes," said European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant. Even publicly, some of the E.U.'s most high-profile figures were quick to tamp down any speculation.

"That's a question that is not related to the other issue, and therefore I think this should not be seen as a related matter," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said curtly before leaving the annual NATO summit in Lithuania, where the drama had all unfolded.

The reasons for the dismissive tone are manifold.

Restarting high-level dialogues could be an easy sell to E.U. leaders, allowing the E.U. to open channels with Erdogan without touching the prospect of E.U. membership.

Either way, both sides know they're stuck in a diplomatic dance — whether they like it or not. And they'll both keep maneuvering for leverage.

"Will Turkey agree to resume oil shipments from northern Iraq?" by Mehmet Alaca, Amwaj.media

The transfer of crude oil from Iraq to Turkey remains suspended, almost four months after an arbitration ruling found that Ankara owes Baghdad compensation for enabling unauthorized exports from Iraqi Kurdistan. Despite unconfirmed reports of an impending visit to Iraq by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there are few indications of a deal on the horizon.

Speaking to Amwaj.media on condition of anonymity, an informed Turkish source alleged that Ankara has demanded to pay the compensation in instalments. The source further claimed that Turkey conveyed to the Iraqi side that it expects to take a more active role in future KRG oil operations. Another Turkish demand, the source alleged, was that it ought to receive discounts going forward as well.

The source additionally echoed reports that another Turkish precondition to restart the flow of oil is for Iraq to withdraw a second lawsuit. The latter ICC case relates to KRG oil exports from 2018 until Apr. 2023. Sources with knowledge of the process told Amwaj.media that the potential compensation in the second suit could exceed the 1.47B USD awarded to Baghdad in the first case.

Bilateral trade between Iraq and Turkey reportedly exceeded 24B USD last year. There are strong shared business interests, and Ankara and Baghdad alike seek to protect their strong economic relationship from tensions. If anything, the dispute over the resumption of oil exports via the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline show the need for high-level political negotiations. Without mutual concessions, the impasse is likely to continue.    

"Erdogan: The master haggler of world politics" by Jamie Dettmer, Politico

It looked like the summit would be totally sidetracked from its planned focus on Ukraine. "Nobody should expect compromise nor understanding from me," Erdogan declared as he set off for Lithuania.  

And then suddenly he pirouetted. After hours of frenetic diplomacy, the Turkish leader shook hands with a relieved-looking NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden's Ulf Kristersson. He had dropped his veto on Swedish membership, after blocking it for months on the grounds that Stockholm had been harboring Kurdish activists who Ankara describes as "terrorists."

Even by his own mercurial standards, Erdogan caught everyone by surprise. 

Through this succession of policy twists and U-turns, Turkey secured substantial concessions, said Rich Outzen, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank. "You have to acknowledge that Erdogan played his hand well in terms of protecting Turkey's national interests," he said. 

"I actually think Erdogan was playing a game based on the knowledge that ultimately he would let Sweden in but knowing that with the summit coming up he could maximize good optics and extract more concessions," said Outzen. 

In the NATO statement released after Erdogan's meeting with Stoltenberg and Kristersson, the alliance committed "to the principle that there should be no restrictions, barriers or sanctions to defence trade and investment among Allies. We will work towards eliminating such obstacles." That was a big win for the Turkish leader.

According to Outzen, Erdogan is likely to continue to play both sides, in keeping with traditional Turkish foreign policy. "For him to decide he is totally on board with the West now would be out of character," he said.


Allies of ruling party criticize approval of Sweden's NATO bid

Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), criticized the approval of Sweden's NATO membership bid on July 11 during his party's parliamentary group meeting. Bahceli claimed that Sweden could not distance itself from "terrorist organizations." 

Similarly, Fatih Erbakan, the leader of the New Welfare Party (YRP), criticized the move on July 13, urging the government to reconsider its decision.

Given that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has 263 parliamentary seats out of 600, support from other coalition parties will be needed to ratify Sweden's NATO bid if the opposition does not vote in favor.

Education minister says considering opening gender-segregated schools

Minister of National Education, Yusuf Tekin, suggested opening gender-segregated schools to address the low schooling rates of girls whose families refuse to send them to co-ed schools. This statement has drawn harsh criticism from opposition parties, teachers' unions, and children's rights groups. 

However, two government-aligned parties, the Free Cause Party (HUDA-PAR) and the Great Unity Party (BBP), have supported the minister's remarks, advocating for gender-segregated schools. HUDA-PAR deputy Sehzade Demir agreed with the minister's stance, while BBP Chair Mustafa Destici endorsed the idea on social media, suggesting that opposition to the proposal may stem from a hidden agenda against faith and religion.

Turkey halts residency permits for foreigners in Istanbul 

Turkey has decided to stop issuing residency permits to foreigners living in Istanbul in 10 districts. The Turkish Interior Ministry will only grant residence permits in specific safety, health, education, and international trade cases. The implementation will be in effect until further notice.

As of 2022, around 1.2 million foreigners, including 535,025 Syrian refugees, were living in Istanbul, making up 8% of the city's population. President Erdogan and Interior Minister Yerlikaya have recently expressed a tougher stance on migration amid preparations for local elections in March 2024 and increasing public concerns about refugees.


Simsek: Central bank reserves surge to $108.6 Billion in June

Turkish Finance Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, announced on July 11 that the Central Bank reserves in Turkey experienced a significant increase in June. The reserves, which stood at $98.5 billion on May 26, rose to $108.6 billion by June 30. Şimşek also highlighted that the net reserves improved by $14.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Central Bank shared the balance of payments statistics for May, revealing that the country's current account registered a deficit of $7.93 billion. According to the bank's data, this deficit marks a widening from $5.4 billion in April to $5.8 billion in May 2022.

Turkey doubles special consumption tax on fuel in one day

The ruling party raised the special consumption tax on gasoline and natural gas to address its budget deficit. On July 16, the government increased the tax on petrol to generate additional funds for the budget, which has faced increased spending due to earthquakes and the presidential election in May. 

The budget deficit reached 263.6 billion lira in the first five months of the year, compared to 124.6 billion lira in the same period last year. However, this move may also contribute to inflation, which had been decreasing but still stood at 38.21% in June. 

Fatih Erbakan, Chairman of the New Welfare Party (YRP), an ally of the ruling People's Alliance, criticized the recent hike in the Special Consumption Tax on fuel products and urged the government to abandon these practices.

Mustafa Destici, the leader of the Great Unity Party (BBP) and another ally of the People's Alliance, also voiced his opposition on Twitter to the over 200% increase in the Special Consumption Tax (SCT) on fuel products, stating that it is an unfair and unacceptable regulation.

Turkey's healthcare system struggles with doctor shortages and medicine scarcity

Turkey's healthcare system faces significant challenges due to a shortage of medical staff and a scarcity of medicine. The impact of the exchange rate crisis on pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, coupled with doctors leaving the country, has strained the system.

Patients seeking appointments in public hospitals through the Centralized Doctor Appointment System (MHRS) are encountering difficulties, with some departments having no available slots and others requiring a wait of up to 15 days.

Turkey heavily relies on foreign markets for pharmaceutical supplies, and in recent months, the country has experienced medicine shortages. In November 2022, the unavailability of medicines reached 35 percent, leading to the Health Ministry increasing the euro exchange rate for medicines to mitigate the issue. However, a similar crisis has resurfaced, with the euro value approaching 30 liras in July 2023.


Turkish Court sentences 14-year-old to jail for "insulting President" 

A 14-year-old child in Turkey was sentenced to five months in jail for "insulting the President." The child was accused of making offensive remarks about the President in a WhatsApp group. 

Despite the lawyer for the Presidency stating that they were not pressing the charges, the court initially sentenced the child to one year in prison but later reduced it to five months due to the defendant's young age and "good behavior." The verdict has been deferred, meaning the child will not serve time in jail.

Court of Cassation rejects release request for M.P. Can Atalay

The Court of Cassation rejected a request to release Can Atalay, a Workers' Party of Turkey (TIP) member and a deputy representing Hatay. Atalay, a lawyer and rights advocate, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests. 

Despite Article 83 of the Constitution, which protects members of parliament from detention or trial without the parliament's decision, Atalay's application for release was dismissed. The court's decision stated that the charges against him fell within the scope of the Constitution, and therefore, he did not have legislative immunity. The trial will proceed as per general procedural rules, the court added.


Turkey approves Sweden's NATO membership bid

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has given the green light for Sweden's bid to join the NATO military alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on July 10 that Erdogan agreed to forward Sweden's accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for ratification. 

In an effort to resolve the deadlock, discussions were held for several hours on the eve of the summit between Erdogan, the Turkish President, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary Stoltenberg.

Both countries issued a joint statement emphasizing Sweden's commitment to not supporting Kurdish groups and actively supporting Turkey's E.U. accession process. Erdogan has also called on the European Union to open the way for Turkey's E.U. membership before approving Sweden's NATO bid.

On July 13, Sweden's highest court rejected Turkey's request to extradite two individuals accused of being part of the Gulen movement. The court stated that the actions of joining the Gulen movement through a mobile application did not meet the criteria for terrorism under Swedish law. The court also highlighted concerns about the risk of persecution faced by the accused if they were returned to Turkey. This decision could complicate Sweden's NATO membership bid, which had recently seen Turkey dropping objections to its accession.

Turkish, Greek leaders agree to restore bilateral relations

Turkey and Greece leaders announced on July 12 their commitment to repairing ties after a period of tension lasting over a year. Turkish President Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met on the sidelines of a NATO Summit in Vilnius and agreed to resume talks and confidence-building measures, expressing optimism about the new positive climate in their relationship. 

Additionally, both leaders decided to hold the next meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council, established in 2010, in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in the autumn. 

Erdogan says in agreement with Russian President to extend grain deal 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced on July 14 that he is in agreement with  Russian President Vladimir Putin to extend the deal enabling the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea. Erdogan expressed hope for an extension beyond the current July 17 deadline, citing efforts by the United Nations and Turkey. The European Commission is also supporting the extension and is open to exploring all possible solutions, a spokesperson from the European Union said.

Canada and Turkey to resume talks on export controls

Canada agreed to resume the talks with Turkey regarding lifting export controls on drone parts, according to an anonymous source familiar with the talks. The talks will specifically focus on lifting export controls on optical equipment used in drones.

This development comes after Turkey approved Sweden's joining NATO, which was seen as a significant concession. The discussions had been put on hold since Turkey initially objected to the NATO membership bids of Sweden and Finland last year.