by instituDE, published on 11 September 2023


"Don't Get Your Hopes Up About Ankara and Athens" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan and his Greek counterpart Gerapetritis held their first bilateral meeting on Tuesday in Ankara to prepare for the meeting between Turkish President Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in New York on September 18. Many analysts and journalists are celebrating these meetings as the start of a new detente between the two countries. Given the hostile discourse in recent years, it is understandable that there is enthusiasm to see a return to normalcy. However, a slight improvement in diplomatic relations does not necessarily imply that the two neighbors are on the path to resolving their differences on a range of issues. Ankara and Athens are still navigating in the troubled waters of the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

While the easing of tension between Turkey and Greece is a welcome development, it is unlikely that the parties will propose a new approach to their long-standing issues in the Aegean Sea, the eastern Mediterranean, and Cyprus. Greece's proposal to address differences in the Aegean Sea through a dispute resolution in an international court will not be well received in Ankara. The only tangible progress in the near future may come from the development of promising oil and natural gas resources in the region, although this will still require substantial effort and patience.

"Grain Deal and Turkey's Balancing Policy" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

Turkish President Erdogan failed to convince the Russian President to revive the Grain Deal during his visit to Sochi. Nonetheless, Turkey's bilateral relations with Russia continue to flourish, even amid Turkey's renewed cooperation with its Western allies. However, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could create tension in their relationship and make it more difficult for Turkey to maintain a delicate balance between NATO and Russia.

Meeting with Erdogan did not alter Putin's position on the Grain Deal. Putin maintains that the deal was unfair and characterized by deception under the guise of humanitarianism. During the press conference, he argued that the great majority of the grain went to developed countries, not to Africa. Yet, his condition to return to the deal is lifting the sanctions that the US and EU imposed upon Russia. 

Rather than resurrecting the original deal, Erdogan and Putin reached an agreement on a scaled-down version that permitted the shipment of 1 million tons of grain to underdeveloped countries. However, when compared to the scope of the original deal, 1 million tons falls short of meeting the needs and expectations. 

Nevertheless, political pressure mounts on both sides as the conflict escalates. Consequently, maintaining the balancing act will grow increasingly challenging for Ankara. In this context, Turkey needs to increase its commitment to Ukraine to buttress its war efforts while keeping the gates open for Russia against the sanctions. The question is how long the warring parties will tolerate Turkey's double play. Yet, Ankara's attempt to satisfy Western expectations will disappoint the Kremlin and strain Turkish-Russian relations. The coming months may pose greater challenges for Turkey's balancing policy.

"Turkey favors Putin and coup plotters in Sahel/West Africa" by Turkmen Terzi, Turkish Minute

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have developed a friendship over the past two decades that is highly pragmatic.

Ankara and Moscow are currently doing their best to avoid stepping on each other's toes in West Africa and the Sahel, where both are using recent coup attempts to break France's influence in the region.

Erdogan has often been critical of the continent's former colonial rulers, but he recently criticized an African institution for the first time by speaking out against the Economic Community of West African States' (ECOWAS) decision on military intervention in Niger.

Niger is strategically important to Erdogan's goals because the Muslim-majority country borders Libya, where Turkey has maintained a military presence and made large economic investments since Turkish forces supported the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and prevented General Khalifa Haftar's Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA) from taking power in Tripoli in 2019.

The Turkish government has recently signed several agreements on economic and especially military cooperation with Niger. Since then, the Turkish military has been training Nigerien soldiers and Niger has acquired six Bayraktar TB2 drones and Hürkuş-B air combat aircraft under the November 2021 arms deal.

Nordic Monitor reported that Erdogan's government is strengthening its ties with Mali's junta rulers through military aid, training, trade and investment programs to curb Western influence in Africa.

"Erdogan Has No Choice but to Reconcile With Assad" by Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy

"Terrorism in Syria is made in Turkey." These are the words of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a recent interview with Sky News Arabia, and they are largely representative of the contempt Assad holds for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

By 2022, it became clear that Assad would continue to govern Syria, largely thanks to the material assistance Russia and Iran have provided him. This unwelcome reality was confirmed with Syria's readmission into the Arab League this May. And it has put Erdogan in an uncomfortable position of having to reconcile with the man he tried so hard to overthrow. 

If Assad is going to cooperate with Erdogan over the return of refugees, then it is going to come at a price: the removal of Turkey's military presence from northern Syria.

But doing so would be an explicit admission that Turkey's entire Syria strategy is one giant failure. The opposition at home would hit Erdogan hard and raise some difficult questions, mainly on what was actually accomplished in Syria. Even so, not removing troops from Syria will mean that Assad won't even meet with Erdogan. This is largely reflective of the comfortable position that Assad knows himself to be in. There is not much motivation for Assad to please Erdogan, and the latter has very little by way of leverage.

Indeed, Assad is not the only one who has a problem with Turkey's behavior in Syria. The US government recently sanctioned two Turkish-backed militia groups. Without naming Turkey, the US government sent a strong signal that it is growing tired of Ankara's continuing actions in Syria.

All of this means that Erdogan's hand will most likely be forced to backtrack on his ill-conceived and fruitless Syria policy. Finally, Erdogan would like to be able to tell his home crowd that he has acted on the refugee issue and neutralized the Kurdish threat. The only way that all of these desires can come to pass is for Erdogan to militarily abandon Syria and eat a sizable slice of humble pie.

"Erdogan failed to persuade Putin, but his economy team convinced TurkStat" by Murat Yetkin, Yetkin Report

Let's be clear. It was already clear from Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's contacts with Ukraine and Russia that President Tayyip Erdogan would not be able to convince his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to return to the grain deal at the Sochi meeting on September 4. Because Russia did not see Turkey as the source of the problem. 

Erdogan did not necessarily win the election just because Putin gave him 20-odd billion dollars in relief through shares in the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant and the postponement of BOTAŞ's natural gas debts. But Putin was clearly trying to influence the Turkish elections in favor of Erdogan in this way. Now, will the new gas deals wipe out the old debts? And in exchange for what?

The answers to these questions will not be forthcoming immediately, but Turkey has little time to lose in finding external funding to get out of the economic crisis.

The fact that Erdogan's Sochi delegation included Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan suggests an effort to convince Russia to support Turkey more. Erdogan and Putin have agreed to use lira and rubles in trade, not dollars, but the "unstable" course of the Turkish lira raises questions even in Russia, which is under sanctions and under a state of war.

But what had happened that TurkStat suddenly started to release "more realistic" figures? There is no need to caricature the situation. "More realistic" data was needed for the Central Bank to pursue a more realistic monetary policy and for the Ministry of Treasury and Finance to prepare and announce a "more realistic" Medium Term Plan (MTP).


Potential successors considered within AKP after Erdogan, says journalist

Journalist Nuray Babacan from Gazete Pencere reported on September 5 that everyone within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is discussing the future leader after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Babacan says three main figures are considered potential AKP leaders after Erdogan. Currently, Erdogan holds the positions of both president and AKP leader.

The first potential leader is Selcuk Bayraktar, Erdogan's son-in-law and co-owner of the drone manufacturer Baykar.

Babacan says the second figure for AKP leadership is Hakan Fidan, the Foreign Minister and former head of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

The third name mentioned is Suleyman Soylu, an AKP lawmaker and former Interior Minister who has had a lower public profile since the elections.

Good Party to field mayoral candidates in Istanbul and Ankara

In a YouTube program dated September 6, opposition Good Party chair Meral Aksener told journalist Fatih Altayli that her party plans to nominate candidates for the mayoral positions in Istanbul and Ankara. 

She emphasized that they are taking the risk of losing these municipalities to the ruling AKP and said they did not establish the party to elect Republican People's Party candidates. Aksener also clarified that she would bring this issue to the party's board meeting.

Turkey's CHP celebrates its 100th anniversary

The main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), observed the 100th anniversary of its founding on September 9. Founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it's the country's oldest active political party.

To mark the occasion, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu visited Anitkabir and laid a wreath at Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's mausoleum, where he also left a message in the special book.

Meanwhile, CHP Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu wrote a letter for the party's centenary in the daily Cumhuriyet, underscoring the importance of change within the party following recent election setbacks.

Former Interior Minister ordered to pay compensation in defamation case

The 15th Civil Court of First Instance in Ankara ruled that former Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu to pay 40,000 lira in compensation to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), in a defamation case. 

This lawsuit stemmed from derogatory remarks Soylu made about Kilicdaroglu during budget discussions on November 18, 2022, when Kilicdaroglu accused him of "money laundering. In response to Soylu's statement, Kilicdaroglu's lawyer, Celal Celik, filed a lawsuit.


World Bank in talks with Turkey to double its support 

The World Bank is in discussions with Turkey to double its financial support, potentially reaching $35 billion. The discussions involve a commitment of up to $18 billion for projects over the next three years, in addition to the existing $17 billion programs. The funding includes direct assistance to the government and support for the private sector. 

"The World Bank's decision to significantly increase its exposure to Turkey is a further endorsement of our medium-term economic program." Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said in a tweet

As a result of this news, the Turkish lira improved, credit-default swaps decreased, and the banking index rose by up to 4%. The World Bank plans for approximately two-thirds of the $18 billion to benefit Turkey's private sector through direct investment and guarantees. Some of the funds will also support trade finance and aid Turkish exporters. Additionally, a portion of these funds will likely assist in reconstructing areas affected by two major earthquakes in Turkey's southeast on February 6.

EU Commissioner signs $840 million support package for refugees in Turkey

During his visit to the Turkish capital on September 6-7, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, together with Minister of Family and Social Services Mahinur Ozdemir Goktas, signed a 781 million euro ($840 million) support package for refugees in Turkey.

Varhelyi also had talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Trade Minister Omer Bolat, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar, Minister of Industry and Technology Mehmet Fatih Kacir and Turkish business community TOBB to intensify contacts for visa facilitation, trade matters and investment opportunities. Varhelyi also met with Vice President Cevdet Yilmaz to discuss the state of play and outlook for the EU-Turkey strategic partnership.

Erdogan says cost of living crisis a psychological issue

On September 5, Turkish President Erdogan discussed the ongoing cost of living crisis, describing it as more of a psychological issue than an economic one. He mentioned that prices have been rising, and the increases in wages for employees often don't seem to cover the higher costs. Erdogan also pointed out that there's a significant price gap for the same products and services in different places, indicating that the problem may be rooted in perceptions rather than economic factors.

He emphasized that they are working to combat inflation by addressing both psychological factors influencing the cost of living and implementing policies to reduce inflation.

In August, Turkey's official statistical agency, TUIK, recorded an annual inflation rate of 58.94 percent. However, the independent inflation group ENAG reported a much higher figure of 128.05 percent.

Turkey expects higher inflation, lower growth

According to medium-term programme published on September 6, Turkey increased its inflation forecast to 65% for this year and 33% for the next, up from 24.9% and 13.8% projected a year ago. According to their recent plan, the government lowered growth predictions to 4.4% for this year and 4% for the next.

On September 4, JPMorgan increased its year-end inflation forecast from 62% to 65% following the release of higher-than-expected inflation data for August. The Wall Street Bank expects the annual inflation rate to peak at 73% in May 2024.

The program also indicates an expected current account deficit of $42.5 billion in 2023 and $34.7 billion in 2024. According to the plan, the government expects the lira to average around 23.9 per dollar this year and 36.8 next year.

"With the support of a tight monetary policy, we will reduce inflation to single digits and improve the current account balance." President Erdogan said while presenting the medium-term programme. 

Analysts appreciate the government's more realistic approach to tackling high inflation but warn that short-term economic challenges could test Erdogan's patience. As his ruling AK Party seeks to regain control of cities like Istanbul and Ankara in upcoming elections, analysts claim that higher inflation, unemployment, and lower growth could present political challenges.

Moody's indicates Turkey's post-election economic shift could improve credit rating

Moody's analyst Dietmar Hornung stated that Turkey's return to conventional economic policies after President Erdogan's May election victory is a positive move for its credit rating as long as it continues on this path. 

However, he noted that there are still significant uncertainties and challenges ahead, particularly related to tackling high inflation, which is expected to reach 65% this year, and addressing accumulated economic imbalances. "Moody's maintains a stable outlook for Turkey's rating, but it will take time to see the full benefits of these changes." Moody's analyst said.

On the other hand, on September 9, Fitch Ratings upgraded Turkey's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) outlook from 'negative' to 'stable.' However, it has maintained Turkey's IDR at a 'B' level, five tiers below investment grade.


Constitutional Court upholds inmate's privacy rights over recording of letters 

The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of an inmate's privacy rights, stating that recording an inmate's letters in the digital judicial platform UYAP violated fundamental rights. The decision came after Muammer Kukul, a convict in Kocaeli, raised concerns about the monitoring of his letters while in prison, arguing that it violated his privacy and freedom of communication. 

The Court found that there were no clear regulations governing the recording and use of an inmate's confidential information, leading to an infringement on the inmate's right to privacy and data protection.


Turkish and Greek Foreign Ministers pledge to improve relations

After their initial bilateral meeting in Ankara on September 5, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing their countries' relationship. They outlined a three-step plan, including restarting political and confidence-building discussions. They also plan to build on the positive agenda set during a previous meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in July at the NATO summit in Lithuania.

Gerapetritis disclosed that the two leaders are set to meet again on September 18 during the United Nations General Assembly.

Fidan acknowledged differences in the Aegean but expressed their intent to find new ways to resolve them. He also mentioned upcoming meetings between deputy foreign ministers to advance political talks and the fifth High-Level Cooperation Council meeting in Thessaloniki by year-end.

UK and Turkey increase cooperation to prevent small boat exports

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK and Turkey are intensifying their joint efforts to prevent the export of small boats into Europe, which is a crucial tactic used by smuggling gangs. During a session in the House of Commons on September 6, Sunak emphasized the importance of stopping these boats and addressing illegal migration. 

He noted that the UK and Turkey are enhancing their collaborative operations to tackle illegal migration and raised this issue when he recently spoke with President Erdogan.

Turkish President visits New Delhi for G-20 Summit

Turkish President Erdogan travelled to New Delhi on September 8 to participate in the 18th G-20 Leaders' Summit. India hosted the two-day summit with the theme "One Earth, One Family, One Future." Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping didn't attend the summit.

On the sidelines of the summit, Erdogan met with leaders from Japan, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, the European Council, South Korea, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, MIT head Ibrahim Kalin, and chief adviser Akif Cagatay Kilic accompanied Erdogan. The leaders discussed a range of topics, including bilateral, regional, and global issues, during private meetings.

Erdogan also participated in a session with leaders from MIKTA, a partnership consisting of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia.

After the summit, at a news conference, the Turkish President said he had a brief conversation with US President Joe Biden during the G-20 leaders' summit, and they discussed the issue of F-16 fighter jets. "Regrettably, Sweden is consistently mentioned in discussions about the F-16 issue," Erdogan said, expressing it upsets Turkey. He also emphasized that the decision on this matter isn't solely in his hands and requires parliamentary approval, and Sweden has responsibilities to fulfil.