by instituDE, published on 10 June 2024


"Turkey's Deployment of Syrian Mercenaries in Africa" by Mustafa Enes Esen, The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Turkey has recently deployed hundreds of Syrian mercenaries in Niger. As early as January, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Turkish authorities were recruiting fighters from northern Syria, particularly from the "Sultan Murad" brigade, a faction closely associated with Turkey. 

This is not the first time the Turkish government deployed Syrian mercenaries to support friendly countries. What distinguishes this deployment from previous ones is that this time, Turkey is recruiting Syrian mercenaries to serve under Russian command. This arrangement highlights the extent of Russia's comfort in cooperating with Turkey on security matters. 

The arrival of Russian military advisers in Niamey in April 2024, to the chagrin of France and the US, and the expulsion of Western troops, firmly indicate that security matters in Niger are now managed by the Kremlin. However, Russia is constrained by its own limitations in finding necessary troops due to its engagement in a protracted war in Ukraine and cannot readily rely on private security companies, such as Wagner.

This shortage necessitated subcontracting the job of protecting oil facilities and military sites in Niger to another trusted ally. SADAT, a shadowy security company with close ties to the AKP government in Turkey and often compared to Russia's Wagner in its operational style, has been allegedly instrumental in recruiting these fighters. This controversial deployment underscores Turkey's ongoing support for friendly regimes with questionable legitimacy in Africa. 

Additionally, the Turkish government might have the intention to profit from Niger's natural resources by protecting mines and oil sites. According to a recent report by SwissAid, a substantial portion of the gold imported from Libya to Turkey is smuggled from other African countries. The presence of Syrian mercenaries in Niger, one of Libya’s neighbors, might facilitate such operations.

"It’s Time for America and Turkey to Reconcile" by Asli Aydintasbas, Foreign Affairs

By canceling the May meeting, Turkey missed an opportunity for a much-needed reset with the United States. 

After the latest diplomatic breakdown, the Biden administration may be tempted to return to its earlier approach of keeping Erdogan at a distance. But at a time of global mayhem, neither Turkey nor the United States has the luxury to remain estranged. 

Now is a particularly good time to reach out to Erdogan. After his long-dominant Justice and Development Party faced its largest-ever defeat in local elections in late March, Turkey’s strongman is vulnerable.

Washington may be tempted to wait out Erdogan before trying to reconcile with Ankara, but Turkey’s strongman still has at least four more years in power. And in the meantime, Turkey sits in the middle of too many global flashpoints for the United States to delay a new dialogue. The next time the two leaders meet, Biden should take the opportunity to begin a conversation with Erdogan not just about the standard slate of bilateral issues but also about a broader reset. 

Ankara has much to offer the United States and its European allies in trade and defense partnerships, as well as in helping to contain the influence of China, Iran, and Russia, particularly in regions where Turkey is active but the United States’ reach is limited. There will be no return to the Cold War transatlantic relationship, but Erdogan’s Turkey has not yet crossed over to the Chinese-Russian orbit, and there is an opening for Turkey to tilt back toward the West if its partners make the advantages of cooperation clear. Weighing the costs of continued estrangement and the potential benefits of a reset, Biden should resolve to extend Turkey a hand.

"Have Turkey, China hit reset button on Uyghurs as Fidan visits Xinjiang?" by Ezgi Akın, Al-Monitor

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s visit to China marked an important turning point in Turkey-China ties amid a display of joint desire for closer relations —disagreements notwithstanding — but some of the rhetoric during the trip raised eyebrows in the West.

Fidan’s description of Urumqi and Kashgar as “historically Turkic Muslim" cities ruffled some feathers in China, according to Nurettin Akcay, a Turkish academic at Ankara’s Yildirim Beyazit University, but “the Chinese side hasn't expressed their disgruntlement publicly because they do not want to escalate the issue to a level that could damage the ties.”

“I'm fascinated by the Urumqi Kashgar leg of the visit,” Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor. “It didn't look like Fidan was able to address the persecution that the Uyghurs are facing. So perhaps that is big enough for now for the Chinese to get from Turkey.”

Fidan also lashed out at the West during the visit, using China's rhetoric of empowering the Global South. 

The remarks were in contrast with Ankara’s efforts to rebuild trust with Washington after turbulent years and a positive momentum in Turkey-US ties following the Turkish nod to Sweden’s NATO membership in January. 

“It can deepen the trust erosion between Ankara-Washington,” Alper Coskun, a retired Turkish diplomat and current senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment told Al-Monitor. A potential Chinese undertaking of the planned nuclear power plant in Turkey stands out as another issue that will fuel questions over Ankara’s commitment to the Western alliance.

“Of course, global realities require Turkey to work with China and establish reasonable ties with Russia,” Coskun said. “But Turkey gives the impression of wobbling too much.”


Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan is scheduled to visit the Russian Federation on June 10-11, 2024. During his visit, Fidan will engage in bilateral meetings in Moscow and participate in the BRICS+ session on June 11, which will take place alongside the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nizhny Novgorod.


Interior Ministry Removes Co-Mayor of Hakkari, Sparks Controversy

The Interior Ministry of Turkey removed Mehmet Sıddık Akis, the co-mayor of Hakkari, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) and appointed a trustee just two months after his election. Akis, who received 48.9% of the vote in the March 31 elections, was detained in Van on June 3, following a police raid on the Hakkari municipal building on June 2. He is the first mayor removed from office following the March 31 elections.

The ministry stated on X that Akis was removed due to an ongoing investigation and a separate terrorism-related trial. Hakkari Governor Ali Celik has been appointed in his place. The Hakkari Governor’s Office also announced a 10-day ban on public demonstrations, protests, and marches starting June 3 to prevent protests against Akis' removal.

The DEM Party condemned the action as a "coup attempt against the will of Hakkari" and urged public reaction and awareness. 

Main opposition CHP leader Ozgur Ozel criticized the trustee appointment as the "hijacking of the will of the people" and called for the reinstatement of the city's mayor.

On June 5, the Hakkari 1st High Criminal Court sentenced Akis to 19 years and six months in prison on terrorism-related charges and arrested him. 

The DEM Party stated on X that it rejects the court's decision, labeling the trial as "absurd." They accused the Turkish judiciary of following directives from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

In his first comments on Akis's removal, Erdogan stated on June 5 that the judiciary has done its job and will continue to do so. He noted that "Hakkari was the first step," confirming concerns about the potential removal of other DEM Party mayors.

Top Court Limits Presidential Powers Over University and Central Bank Appointments

Turkey's Constitutional Court has curtailed presidential powers to appoint university rectors and replace central bank governors.

The court annulled parts of a government decree issued during the 2016 state of emergency that allowed the president to appoint university rectors. The court stated that university autonomy is compromised when the president alone has the power to appoint rectors and relevant criteria, such as being a university professor for at least three years, are eliminated. The ruling will take effect in a year.

Additionally, the court ruled that the president's authority to replace central bank governors before the end of their four-year term violates the Constitution. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has frequently replaced central bank governors in recent years, preventing any governors from serving their full term since 2016.

Imamoglu's Election as TBB President Sparks Crisis Within AKP

The election of popular Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu as president of Turkey's Union of Municipalities (TBB) has caused a crisis within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) after some AKP mayors were found to have supported his candidacy.

In the election held on June 3, Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), received 515 votes, while Trabzon Mayor Ahmet Metin Genc of the AKP received only 250.

A total of 868 delegates, including provincial mayors and mayors of districts with over 100,000 residents, cast their votes. The number of votes Imamoglu received indicated that some AKP mayors also voted for him, as there were only 448 CHP delegates in the election.

President Erdoğan reportedly reprimanded Yusuf Ziya Yilmaz, the AKP deputy chairperson for local administrations, and instructed him to identify which AKP mayors and delegates were among the 67 non-CHP voters for Imamoglu. Erdoğan also reportedly demanded Yilmaz’s resignation if he fails to provide the list.

Aksener's Surprise Meeting with President Erdogan Sparks Speculation

Former Good Party leader Meral Aksener had an unexpected meeting with Turkish President Erdogan at his presidential complex in Ankara on June 5. Neither Erdogan nor Aksener made any statements after the meeting, only posing for press photos.

Rumors from the Good Party headquarters indicated that the party had not been informed about the meeting beforehand. However, during a live program on June 5, Dervisoglu stated that Aksener called him after the meeting and mentioned they discussed general topics about Turkey, but she did not provide details due to the "private" nature of the discussion.

Aksener's private secretary, Esma Bekar, said in a live broadcast on June 8 that the invitation for the meeting came from Erdogan. Bekar mentioned that Erdogan did not offer Aksener a position, nor have the parties made any requests.

Afyonkarahisar Mayor Faces Inquiry Over Alleged Discrimination Against Iraqi National

The governor's office of Afyonkarahisar, a province in western Turkey, has requested a written statement from Mayor Burcu Koksal regarding allegations of discrimination against an Iraqi national named Moussa G., who sought to open a gym in the city, local media reported.

Koksal, known for her anti-refugee views, denied the accusations, stating that no one named Moussa G. had applied for a business license. 

She clarified that only one Turkish citizen had applied but was denied due to non-compliance with regulations. The gym operated by the Iraqi national was closed down by the municipality for operating without a license, which Koksal stated was in line with the law.


Turkish Annual Inflation Hits 75.45% in May, Slightly Exceeding Expectations

Official data released on June 3 revealed that Turkish annual consumer price inflation stood at 75.45% in May, slightly surpassing expectations. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, consumer prices increased by 3.7% on a monthly basis from April to May, aligning with forecasts from the central bank.

The rise in the consumer price index was mainly driven by significant increases in education, housing, and restaurant prices last month.

However, a group of independent economists, ENAG, reported higher figures, stating that consumer prices rose by 120.66% year-on-year in May and by 5.66% on a monthly basis.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek expressed optimism, stating that "the worst is over" and that relief would begin in the current month. He remarked that the transition period in the fight against inflation had concluded, signaling the start of the disinflation process. Simsek predicted that inflation would drop below 50% by the end of the third quarter.

Finance Minister Reports $6 Billion Improvement in Trade Balance

On June 3, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek announced ongoing improvements in the country's external balance on his X account. He highlighted a $6 billion annual improvement in the foreign trade balance in May, driven by an 11.4 percent increase in exports and a 10.3 percent decrease in imports.

Şimşek expects the current account deficit to national income ratio to be around 2.5 percent by the end of the year. He noted that reducing the deficit will decrease the need for external resources and enable the accumulation of permanent foreign reserves.

Turkey's Exports to Israel Drop by 99% After Trade Suspension

Turkey's exports to Israel nearly stopped in May as the Turkish government suspended trade until Gaza receives sufficient humanitarian aid. 

Data from Turkey's main exporters association revealed a 99% decrease in shipments to Israel, amounting to $4.4 million. Additionally, exports to Israel in the first five months of the year dropped by 40% compared to the same period last year.

Turkey Set to Exit Financial Watchdog's "Gray List"

Turkey is on track to be removed from a financial watchdog's "grey list" after taking steps to combat illicit money flows. Based in Paris, the Financial Action Task Force will make the final decision at a meeting on June 28. 

As reported by Bloomberg, following an on-site visit by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force earlier this month, significant progress was noted, according to sources familiar with the matter. This progress could lead to Turkey being removed from the list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring during the FATF plenary in Singapore on June 28.

Turkey Extends Gas Agreement with Azerbaijan Until 2030

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar announced on June 4 on his X account that Turkey has renewed its gas agreement with Azerbaijan, which was set to expire at the end of this year. 

Bayraktar stated that during his visit to Baku, new steps were taken to build on the Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Natural Gas, previously signed in Istanbul with Azerbaijani Minister of Economy Mikail Cabbarov. Four agreements were signed between BOTAŞ and SOCAR, facilitating the transport of Azerbaijani gas to Europe and Nakhchivan via Turkey and the delivery of Turkmenistan gas to Turkey, the minister added. 

The natural gas supply agreement between BOTAŞ and AGSC has also been extended until the end of 2030.

Turkey Imposes 40% Additional Tariff on Vehicle Imports from China

The Turkish trade ministry announced on June 8 that Turkey will levy a 40% additional tariff on vehicle imports from China to prevent a potential decline in the country's current account balance and safeguard domestic automakers. 

The ministry stated that the tariff will apply to China's conventional and hybrid passenger vehicles to boost and protect domestic production. 

According to a presidential decision published in the Official Gazette, the additional tariff will be a minimum of $7,000 per vehicle and take effect on July 7.



Turkey's Human Rights Association Reveals Widespread Prison Rights Violations in 2023 Report

Turkey's Human Rights Association (İHD) unveiled its 2023 prison report, revealing 23,899 rights violations within correctional facilities. These violations were documented based on complaints from inmates, their legal representatives, or family members, originating from 147 facilities across 50 provinces, İHD said.

Among the reported incidents, 17,218 were linked to torture and ill-treatment, including physical assaults, threats, verbal abuse, and strip searches. The report also highlighted arbitrary limitations on outdoor activities, damage to personal belongings during searches, and restrictions on communication with the outside world.

Additionally, the İHD criticized the delayed release of 426 eligible parole prisoners by newly established prison monitoring boards, which possess discretionary authority over parole decisions.

Turkey Tops Europe in Prisoner Numbers

Turkey leads Europe in the number of prisoners, according to the 2023 Council of Europe (CoE) Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations report. As of January 31, 2023, Turkey had 348,265 inmates, making up more than a third of the total 1,036,680 prisoners in CoE member states. England and Wales followed Turkey with 81,806 inmates, France with 72,294, Poland with 71,228, and Germany with 58,098.

The report highlights a significant increase in Turkey’s prison population rate, which surged by 439 percent between 2005 and 2023, the second-highest growth rate in Europe after San Marino. Proportionally, Turkey also topped the list with 408 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants.

Additionally, Turkey is among the top European countries with a high percentage of inmates serving sentences for drug-related offences, closely following Latvia, which leads at 42 percent.

Turkish Police Detain 72 People for Alleged Gulen Movement Links

On June 6, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced on X that Turkish police had detained 72 people in 17 provinces over their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Yerlikaya stated that the detainees included suspects accused of infiltrating the police and judiciary, as well as those who secretly communicated with movement contacts via pay phones. 

Additionally, people identified as movement members in testimonies or who had sentences upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals were also detained.


Putin Warns Turkey on Gas Pipeline Attacks and Economic Strategy Shifts

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Turkey during his speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 5. He highlighted concerns about Ukraine's alleged attempts to target gas pipelines carrying gas to Turkey and reported incidents of unmanned aerial and marine vehicle attacks near the Black Sea coast. 

Putin also commented on Turkey's economic strategies, noting its focus on securing loans, investments, and grants from Western financial institutions. He cautioned against linking this approach to restrictions on trade and economic ties with Russia, warning that Turkey may suffer more than it gains from such actions.

Despite Russia being Turkey's primary supplier of natural gas and LNG, Turkey recently signed an agreement with ExxonMobil to diversify its gas supply.

Turkey Expresses Interest in Joining BRICS Group During Talks with China

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on June 4. They discussed various topics, including Turkey's interest in joining the BRICS group led by China.

During a joint news conference, Fidan expressed Turkey's desire to enhance economic ties and view BRICS as an alternative to the dominant US and European-led global governance structures. He also announced Turkey's aspiration to become a member of BRICS and indicated that progress would be monitored throughout the year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced Russia's support for Turkey's reported interest in joining the BRICS group of nations. Peskov said this matter would be discussed at the organization's upcoming summit.

Turkey Signs $23 Billion Deal for F-16 Fighter Jets with US

Turkey signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance to purchase 40 new F-16 Block 70 fighter jets and 80 modernization kits from the United States in a $23 billion deal, the US State Department announced on June 6.

US Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake praised the agreement, calling it an important step in Turkey’s acquisition of the latest-generation fighter jets. Flake emphasized its significance for US and Turkish national security and NATO interoperability in his X post.

Venezuelan President Signs Gold Extraction Agreement with Turkey

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro signed an agreement with Turkey on June 7 to extract gold in the country's south, an area devastated by illegal mining. Maduro stated that Turkey's investment aims to develop further gold extraction in the Mining Arc of Orinoco, a region abundant in minerals, including gold, iron, and coltan, which have been illegally mined. 

Maduro also signed agreements with Turkey to construct an ammonia refinery and explore gas reserves. He described these projects as significant endeavours for the future of petrochemicals, gas, and gold as part of his campaign leading up to the July 28 presidential election.