by Institude, published on 11 March 2024


"Rough Peace in Libya - Interview with Dr. Jalel Harchaoui" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Role of Regional Powers

The reality in Libya is still dominated by the locals. The conflict in Libya has never been an international conspiracy. It has always had a very major indigenous kernel that you know the divisions are Libyan first of all, and then of course foreign states have played huge role in exasperating all of this, but it is not international conspiracy.

Both Egypt and Turkey stand to profit from certain form of corruption, and the UAE is also has not been anti-corruption actor. So, all those dysfunctions keep accumulating. It is not because you see a hand shake between Erdogan and Sisi or Erdogan and Muhammad bin Zayed that it means that it translates into those actors rolling up sleeves and fix Libya. Libya is not their money, it is not their country, it is not their public suffering. So, all these things tend to continue. It is not enough. It is much easier for a foreign player to exacerbate the problem than to fix it.

[Do divisions within northwestern Libya threaten Turkey’s influence?] Turkey is pretty much aware that those things could happen. It knows that it should think about those potential developments where violence can step out of control. In that particular case, Turkey has to move fast to put out the fire. It has demonstrated the fact that it is aware. It is not about going aggressively against the side of one camp against the other camp…What it is trying to do is like keeping options open. Obviously it has a bias, it would love to see status quo prevail.

[The Maritime deal between Turkey and Libya] It is really a matter of resilience and matter of patience. It is de facto situation that Turkey needs to preserve that Memorandum of Understanding. It is already in trouble. But the original one signed by the Prime Minister Sarraj government in November 2019 is still there. It is not a deal, it is just a Memorandum of Understanding. But the idea would be to first of all not lose it, just keep it there as starting point of something. Right now, the priority is not the maritime deal. The priority is stability on the ground. Just keep that piece of paper as symbolically still valid and potentially get ready or be ready, remain ready to use it as a starting point for the next step. That would take place some time in the medium term future. So, that is really a long game.

[Turkey's Diplomacy with the East] Ankara would love to see the process of peace or opening with eastern Libya faster. The east is very crucial because it has a lot of reconstruction projects, even more now because of Derna. Derna itself probably necessitate up to 4 or 5 billion dollars of projects. And also there is a reconstruction of Benghazi. Turkey really wants a piece from them. Turkey has done its homework in terms of rivaling for projects in the east. And in terms of the rapprochement Turkey has done versus Egypt and the UAE, Turkey has done its homework. So, Turkey getting projects from the east is possible. It might happen in the next couple of years.

"Resort diplomacy: Turkey seeks influence on Global South, appeasement by CoE" by Bünyamin Tekin, Turkish Minute

The Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF), an event held in the coastal city since 2021, has raised eyebrows for its high-level participation from the Global South and noticeable lack of representation from Western governments.

Mustafa Enes Esen, a former Turkish diplomat, says, "Turkey wants to create a new platform … similar to how the Munich Security Conference addresses important foreign policy issues worldwide."

Esen highlights that Turkey's tactic of covering accommodation and transportation costs for delegations, especially from Africa, artificially inflates participation numbers.

The conspicuous absence of major Western powers at the ADF underscores Turkey's strained relations with the West, according to Esen. He cites Ankara's foreign policy decisions and negative image within Western nations as primary reasons. Esen also points to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's sharp criticism of Western countries over the situation in Gaza and the structure of the UN Security Council as expressions of these tensions.

Hakan Kaplankaya, a legal practitioner and former Turkish diplomat, believes the CoE has adopted a misguided policy of appeasement towards Turkey under the current secretary-general. "Instead of focusing strictly on human rights … the approach has taken on a more political tone," Kaplankaya states. He argues that while initiating talks is positive, Turkey benefits from this engagement without meaningfully addressing its human rights violations. "The Council of Europe fails to obtain results from Turkey," he adds.

"After March vote, Turks to feel brunt of Erdogan's inflation fight" by Ebru Tuncay, Birsen Altayli and Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

Turkey is expected to take more policy steps to cool stubbornly high inflation after this month's local elections, setting the stage for more pain for Turks already struggling after years of soaring prices, according to data and some economists.

Households and investors appear skeptical over whether the central bank's dramatic U-turn towards massive interest rate hikes - to 45% now from 8.5% last June - is sufficient on its own to rein in inflation that topped 67% last month.

Simsek said on Monday that he does not plan big tax changes, while the central bank has said it would hike rates more if inflation drifts above forecasts in the months ahead.

Yet the higher-than-expected February inflation data, combined with persistently high domestic demand has raised expectations that more fiscal and monetary steps are coming - though not until after March 31 elections for which President Tayyip Erdogan is campaigning hard for his ruling AK Party.

"Once the local election cycle is over the monetary and fiscal policies will likely tighten again after a brief pause," said Selva Demiralp, professor at Istanbul's Koc University and a former Federal Reserve economist.

"By mid-year, we will taste the full bitterness of the policy medicine," she said. "Inflation will rise until at least then, while hikes to the minimum wage and other fiscal buffers will dissipate."


CHP mayoral candidate's exclusionary remarks stir controversy

During a rally in the western Turkish province of Afyonkarahisar on March 6, Burcu Koksal, the CHP mayoral candidate and deputy group chairperson, stated that if elected, her municipality would welcome all parties except the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party).

CHP leader Ozgur Ozel downplayed Koksal's statement as a "minor slip of the tongue" following criticism from the Kurdish community. However, Koksal stood by her words, refusing to retract them.

Later, on March 7, the CHP issued a statement condemning Koksal's remarks, reaffirming their commitment to inclusivity in CHP-run municipalities.

İstanbul Mayor Imamoglu also delivered a stronger response during an election rally, emphasizing that public service should be available to everyone regardless of their political affiliations and suggesting that those with exclusionary views should look for a new job or a new party.

CHP Leader says open to fielding Imamoğlu as presidential candidate

Ozgur Ozel, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), announced during a TV program on March 6 that if İstanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu wins the upcoming local election on March 31 and surveys indicate he leads ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the CHP would not hesitate to nominate him as their presidential candidate.

The next presidential election in Turkey is scheduled for 2028, and Erdogan stated he will not run again after securing another term as president last May.

Erdogan declares upcoming local elections as his final vote

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announced on March 8 that the local elections scheduled for March 31 would mark his final vote. Speaking at a gathering of the pro-government Turkey Youth Foundation (TUGVA), Erdogan emphasized that this election would be his last under the mandate provided by the law.

He said the outcome of the elections would signify the passing of a legacy to future generations. The 70-year-old leader expressed confidence that his party will remain in power even after he left office.

Erdogan’s words were taken with a grain of salt. He has made similar announcements in the past about not running again, but he did not keep his promises. For instance, in September 2012, he declared that he would not serve again as chairman of the AKP, yet as of today he still remains in that position.


"Turkish Rate Hike Drumbeat Gets Louder as Inflation Heads to 70%" by Kerim Karakaya and Tugce Ozsoy, Bloomberg

Investors are amping up the pressure on Turkey to resume interest-rate hikes as inflation spikes again, the lira weakens and foreign reserves dwindle.

With strong economic activity despite monetary tightening since an election last year, economists and traders say the policy stance, with the one-week repo rate at 45%, is still not tight enough to tame inflation. Swap traders are now pricing a 300 basis-point hike in April after a bigger-than-expected 67% surge in consumer prices in February.

On Monday, JPMorgan said it expects the central bank, which has been on hold since January, to raise its key policy rate by 500 basis points to 50% in April while revising its inflation forecast upward. Similarly, Goldman Sachs sees further tightening as possible and says policymakers would like to see some capital inflows after elections.

Morgan Stanley, meanwhile, has removed the two rate cuts it had previously penciled in for November and December, and now sees the first cuts only in the first quarter of 2025, the bank's economist Hande Kucuk wrote in an emailed report on Tuesday.

Moves in Turkey's foreign exchange reserves and the lira are also adding to the pressure. Net foreign assets, an indicator of net reserves, have fallen by around $20 billion between end-December and March 1, official data shows. The lira has dropped 6.6% so far this year against the dollar, the worst-performing emerging-market currency after the Chilean peso.

Finally, the spread between the interbank and spot lira markets has been widening, a sign of rising demand for physical dollars. The lira is at around 32.5 against the US currency in the spot market of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, according to websites of exchange bureaus, compared with 31.6 in interbank trading.

Turkey's annual inflation rate surges to 67.07% in February

Official data released on March 4 revealed that Turkey's annual inflation rate soared to 67.07% in February, surpassing expectations. This surge was driven by significant increases in food, hotel, and education prices. The month-on-month consumer price inflation (CPI) stood at 4.53%, a decrease from January's 6.70%.

Economists expect the possibility of further monetary tightening following local elections on March 31 due to persistent price pressures and robust domestic demand. Liam Peach, a senior economist at Capital Economics, noted that if core price pressures continue to rise, the likelihood of the central bank restarting its tightening cycle will increase in the coming months.

On the same day, JPMorgan revised its forecasts for Turkey in April due to stronger-than-expected inflation data. The US investment bank expects adding another 500 basis points to their projections, potentially raising Turkey's headline interest rates to 50%. Previously, JPMorgan expected Turkey's recent rate hike, which brought rates to 45%, to be the final one in the current cycle.

Fitch upgrades Turkey's financial rating

Fitch Ratings announced on March 8 that it has upgraded Turkey's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) from "B" to "B+," with a revised outlook from "stable" to "positive." This upgrade marks the first investment grade rating from Fitch for Turkey in over a decade.

The upgrade reflects Turkey's bolstered financial position, with its international reserves reaching $131 billion in March 2024, a significant increase from June 2023. Fitch anticipates further growth in reserves, projecting them to reach $148 billion by the end of 2024 and $159 billion by the end of 2025.

Fitch credits Turkey's central bank for its efforts in implementing substantial interest rate hikes and targeted credit policies, which have helped to slow overall credit growth. Additionally, Fitch expects Turkey's current account deficit to narrow, projecting a decline from 4.2 percent of GDP in 2023 to 2.6 percent in 2024.

Despite these positive developments, Fitch notes challenges such as high levels of external debt maturing within the next year, posing a potential vulnerability to shifts in investor sentiment.

Turkey's Dortyol terminal stops accepting Russian oil imports

Turkey's Dortyol terminal, a mid-sized Mediterranean oil terminal, announced that it will no longer receive Russian imports. This decision comes after the terminal saw record volumes of Russian imports last year.

The operator of the terminal, Global Terminal Services (GTS), told Reuters that it informed its clients about this decision and clarified that while it would still accept Russian cargoes nominated before the ban in late February, it would not accept any new products from Russia.

GTS cited increasing sanctions pressure from the United States as a factor behind this move. They declared that this step was taken as an additional measure to comply with the current sanction rules.


CoE Commissioner Urges Turkey to Improve Freedom of Expression

The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner called on Turkish authorities to expand freedom of expression and media in a new report released on March 5.

In the report titled "Memorandum on freedom of expression and of the media, and the situation of human rights defenders and civil society in Turkey," the commissioner stressed the importance of free expression in a democratic society and highlighted concerns over restrictions threatening democracy.

The memorandum criticized Turkey's use of laws like the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law to stifle free speech, mainly through actions targeting journalists, activists, and lawyers.

The report also raised alarms about internet censorship and government control over social media, including legislation criminalizing "false or misleading information."

Additionally, the report highlighted challenges faced by human rights defenders and civil society organizations, citing restrictive laws and the aftermath of the 2016 failed coup.

Concerns were also raised about the independence of Turkey's judiciary and its susceptibility to executive influence.

The commissioner called for urgent reforms to ensure judicial independence, release imprisoned activists and journalists, and engage constructively with civil society.

Turkey's Academic Freedom Decline Ranks Among World's Lowest

According to the recent update to the Academic Freedom Index (AFI), Turkey's academic freedom has significantly decreased over the past 15 years. As of December 2023, Turkey ranks 164th out of 179 countries, placing it in the bottom 10 percent.

With a score of 0.09 out of 1, Turkey ranks just ahead of countries like North Korea, Myanmar, and Iran, known for their strict restrictions. Turkey falls behind countries such as Qatar, Egypt, and Cuba in the index.

The AFI also highlights that while 56 countries have seen improvements in academic freedom since 1973, it has worsened in 10 countries, including Turkey, Bangladesh, India, and the US.

Turkish authorities detain 91 people over alleged Gulen movement links

In the past five days, Turkish police detained 91 people across 30 provinces for their alleged connections to the Gulen movement, as announced by Turkey's interior minister, Ali Yerlikaya, on March 9. During the raids, police seized some cash and digital materials.

Turkey regularly arrests individuals for providing financial aid to families of those dismissed from public service or imprisoned due to alleged links with the Gulen movement.

UN Working Group finds Turkish air force cadet's imprisonment violated rights

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled that the trial and subsequent life imprisonment of a Turkish Air Force cadet on coup-related charges violated his rights to liberty and a fair trial. This decision was reached after the Turkish government failed to respond to inquiries regarding the case by the September 2023 deadline.

The WGAD concluded that the Turkish authorities did not provide evidence linking Cihangir Çenteli to the attempted coup and that he followed orders from his superior when he went to Air Force Command headquarters.

Çenteli still remains incarcerated in İstanbul's Silivri prison. The WGAD has also called for his immediate release, monetary compensation, and an investigation into officials responsible for the rights violations he endured.


Sudan agrees to indirect talks with RSF via Turkey and Libya Mediation

Sudan's foreign minister, Ali Al-Sadiq Ali, confirmed in an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik published on March 5 that Sudanese authorities are prepared to engage in indirect talks with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The negotiations are set to be mediated by Libya and Turkey.

The initiative for talks came during the Antalya Diplomacy Forum held in Turkey, where Al-Sadiq Ali expressed Sudan's willingness to participate in negotiations facilitated by Libya and Turkey. Turkey has been actively involved in offering to host discussions between the rival factions since the conflict began in April 2023. Despite this, President Recep Tayyib Erdogan's offers to mediate direct negotiations between the leaders of the conflicting factions, Burhan and Dagalo, have been declined by both parties.

President Tayyip Erdogan previously hosted Burhan in Ankara, reaffirming Turkey's commitment to facilitating peace talks and expressing readiness to support any efforts toward reconciliation and stability in Sudan.

EU Drug Report: Turkish criminal networks remain dominant  in European heroin trade

Turkish criminal organizations maintain control over the heroin trade in Europe, according to the latest "EU Drug Markets Report" released by Europol and the EMCDDA on March 7.

Europol states that criminal networks in Turkey remain dominant in trafficking heroin from Afghanistan to EU countries, with Turkish ports being key transit points.

"Heroin trafficking to the European Union increasingly relies on maritime routes and, in particular, the use of global container traffic and ferries departing from Turkey. These methods allow large quantities of heroin to be smuggled in single shipments since the use of transshipment points conceals the origin and nature of suspicious consignments."

"Turkish criminal networks continue to dominate the wholesale trafficking of heroin to the European market, although other networks, such as those linked to the Western Balkan region, are also active in heroin trafficking. These networks cooperate with suppliers in the main production region and with partners in key distribution hubs in the European Union, aided by the exploitation of legally established, acquired or infiltrated companies along the trafficking routes. Trafficking of acetic anhydride, the main chemical required for heroin production, from the European Union also continues to take place on the 'reverse Balkan route' via Turkey.", the report detailed.

Turkish and US officials hold talks on Ukraine and Gaza in Washington

Turkish and US officials met in Washington on March 7 to discuss various issues, including the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza and bilateral matters. The talks, part of the Strategic Mechanism meetings, aimed to address policy disagreements and enhance cooperation.

On March 8, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan told reporters that multiple rounds of discussions covered topics such as Syria, Ukraine, Gaza, defense industry cooperation, energy, and counterterrorism.

Fidan emphasized the urgent need for a ceasefire in Gaza and called for greater international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis and advance a two-state solution. He also said they discussed strategies to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine, highlighting the importance of dialogue.

Regarding Syria and the F-35 program, Fidan reiterated Turkey's stance and said that Turkey expects the delivery of F-35 jets as agreed upon for its contributions to the program as a manufacturer.

Turkey offers to host Ukraine-Russia peace summit

President Erdogan announced Turkey's readiness to host a summit between Ukraine and Russia to put an end to the ongoing war. After a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on March 8, Erdogan said they discussed various issues, including port security, Black Sea navigation safety, prisoner exchanges, and food security. Erdogan also emphasized Turkey's commitment to facilitating negotiations for peace. Zelenskiy stated that Russia would not be invited to the first peace summit in Switzerland, but a representative could join subsequent meetings after a peace roadmap is agreed upon.

Additionally, Zelenskiy visited a shipyard in Istanbul to inspect the construction of two corvettes for the Ukrainian navy and discussed joint defense projects, including arms and ammunition production, with Erdogan.

Turkey and Somalia sign offshore oil and gas cooperation deal

The Turkish Energy Ministry announced on March 7 that Turkey signed an offshore oil and natural gas cooperation deal with Somalia. This agreement comes as a further strengthening of bilateral ties following a defense deal made last month.

According to the energy ministry, the deal, described as an inter-governmental agreement, involves activities such as exploration, evaluation, development, and production of oil in both land and sea blocks of Somalia.

Turkey arrests six for alleged spying for Mossad

Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) said on March 8 that Turkish authorities arrested six people on charges of spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence service. The arrests followed the detention of seven people, including a private detective, on March 5 for allegedly selling information to Mossad.

MIT announced that six have been arrested, while one has been released on bail. Last month, seven others were also detained on suspicion of selling information to Mossad.