Turkish court sentences Istanbul Mayor to jail with a politicalban
On December 14, a Turkish court sentenced IstanbulMayor Ekrem Imamoglu to two years and seven months in prison alongwith a political ban on charges of "insulting" 11 members ofTurkey's High Election Board (YSK) in a speech he gave after winning the city'smunicipal election in 2019. An appeals court must uphold both verdicts.
The leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), KemalKilicdaroglu, cut short his trip to Germany and returned to Turkey toshow his support for Imamoglu and visited him in his office. Kilicdaroglureferred to the court's ruling as a serious breach of the law.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department commented, "TheU.S. is gravely concerned and disappointed by a Turkish court sentencingIstanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to jail."
Six opposition leaders joined a rally on December 15 held in frontof Istanbul Municipality's building to protest the conviction and supportImamoglu. All party leaders made speeches criticizing the conviction before a considerablecrowd gathered to protest the verdict.
Commenting on the conviction of Imamoglu, Turkish PresidentErdogan said on December17 that the appeals court would correct any errors, if applicable, in thelocal court's verdict during the appeal process.
Although the six-party opposition alliance has not yet agreed onits presidential candidate, Imamoglu is viewed as a strong potential rival toTurkish President Erdogan in the presidential elections scheduled for June nextyear.
Bulgaria extradites Hablemitoglu murder suspect to Turkey
On December 14, the Bulgarian Plovdiv Appeal Court overturned the regionalcourt's decision to extradite Levent Goktas, a suspect in the murder ofProfessor Necip Hablemitoglu 20 years ago, and accepted Turkey's request forthe extradition of Goktas.
Goktas was extradited to Turkey and arrested in Istanbulon December 17.
FX-protected lira deposit program extended for another year
The scheme that Turkey implemented amid a 2021 currencycrisis to shield lira deposits from depreciation against hard currencies was extended for oneyear.
The deadline for creating new FX-protected deposit accounts hasbeen extended to December 31, 2023, according to a presidential decreepublished in the official gazette.
Turkey's economic growth losessteam as elections near
Turkey's economic growth - a goal that President Erdogan hasadamantly pursued at the expense of an inflation storm - is running out ofsteam ahead of crucial elections next year, lead indicators released this weekshow.
The country's industrial output, the backbone of economic growth,has lost pace since July and expanded by a relatively modest 2.5% in Octoberfrom the same month last year, according to the official data. In some majorindustries, production contracted. In the mining and energy generation sectors,for instance, it shrank by 7.4% and 4.8% year-on-year, respectively.
This and other lead indicators signal that growth has sharplyslowed in the fourth quarter, meaning a growing risk that the economy mightbegin to stagnate ahead of the presidential and parliamentary polls due by June2023.
Court arrests ajournalist, first pre-trial detention under the new disinformation law
In southeast Turkey, a court ordered a journalist's arrest on December 14 for allegedly spreading"disinformation."
On Twitter, journalist Sinan Aygulclaimed that men, including some police officers and soldiers, had sexuallyabused a 14-year-old girl. He later apologized for sharing the article withoutfirst checking with authorities and removed the initial tweet. However, thelocal court ordered Aygul's arrest until his trial.
The ruling marks the first pre-trialdetention under the new law, which includes a three-year prison sentence foranyone who publishes false or misleading information. Critics warn thatauthorities might use the legislation to silence criticism.
Oil tanker queues end in Turkish straits after deal over newinsurance regulation
Turkey reached anagreement with its counterparts on December 13 that permits thecontinuance of the new insurance regulation following a revision in thewording of the insurance confirmation letter that stipulated that insurerswould not bear liability in all circumstances.
Last week, shipping delays were caused by the new regulation,which went into effect on December 1, requiring crude oil tankers topresent an insurance confirmation letter before passing the Turkish Straits.
Turkey proposes Russia trilateralmechanism with Syria
In his return to Turkey from Turkmenistan on December 15, TurkishPresident Erdogan was quoted as sayingthat he had suggested to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to create atrilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria to speed up diplomatic ties betweenAnkara and Damascus. Erdogan also added that Putin supported the proposal.
Moscow announced on December16 that it welcomes the proposal to establish a trilateral mechanism.
European Commission adopts new support package for Turkey's bordercontrol
A 220-million-euro plan has been approved by the European Commission(E.C.) to strengthen border security along Turkey's eastern border.
Press release from theCommission dated December 12 stated that the current support plan bringsthe total amount of E.U. aid for border control and refugee assistance adoptedin 2022 to 1.235 billion euros.
The E.C. announced that these funds are a part of theadditional 3 billion euros that the E.U. will provide to Turkey's refugeepopulation between 2021 and 2023.
"WouldTurkmen Gas Make Turkey an Energy Hub?" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy
Turkey’s desire to become an energy hub has been a common theme inTurkish energy policies with not much success until recently. Nevertheless, thewar in Ukraine has revived less viable options such as transporting natural gasthrough Central Asia to Europe to diversify energy supply routes.
Turkey wants to take advantage of this context despite the lack ofits own rich natural resources. One should be mindful of the fact that energyprojects of this scale require constant gas production in a stable politicalenvironment. The political will of these countries is just the first step andit will take a lot more before realizing these projects. Financial viabilityand political stability in transporting countries and a sustained productioncapacity of the supplier for at least two decades are also critical factors inrealizing these kinds of colossal projects.
This is why developing natural gas reserves in Iran and Iraq is somuch problematic. And this is why relying on one single supplier is not a goodcriterion to be an energy hub if you do not exploit your own resources. Thesuccess of Turkish endeavors to become an energy hub will depend on how itweighs these factors.
"How the U.S. Can Compromise with Turkey on Syria" byJames Jeffrey, Foreign Policy
The latest crisis in the Turkey-U.S. relationship - Turkishthreats to launch ground operations into Syria against the Kurdistan Workers'Party's (PKK) Syrian Kurdish offshoot, the People's Defense Units (YPG)-hasagain raised tensions in a bilateral relationship that is as critical as it istumultuous. Although no final decision has yet been taken by Turkish PresidentErdogan, it is certainly likely he will launch some form of ground operation,which, depending on where and how, will more or less tank bilateral relations.
Some observers attribute this to Turkey's upcoming nationalelections in mid-2023, where polling shows Erdogan's party well short of amajority, and allege he is seeking to boost support by taking a "wag thedog" action against PKK elements.
Perhaps, but Erdogan might instead be seeking to intimidate thePKK from launching attacks right before the elections, whose "Benghazi"effect could torpedo Erdogan's candidacy. Turkey-U.S. coordination on Syria isalso not as high-level as in the past and given Washington's emphasis onpivoting away from the Middle East, Turks want to know what will happen to thePKK statelet on their border.
Given the importance for both the United States and the SDF offorestalling a destabilizing Turkish incursion, Washington should revitalizethese commitments in some form. The SDF could withdraw from Manbij and Kobani,as it had previously agreed to do in various forms, and extend its pledge notto attack Turkey from northeast Syria to not attacking from anywhere in Syria,in return for a Turkish promise not to move against Manbij or the northeast.Turkey could still attack Tal Rifaat, but the PKK elements there have hadnothing to do with the United States, and thus an attack there would be farless destabilizing for the U.S. - Turkey relationship than elsewhere.
"U.S., Russia stall Turkey's ground operation, but Kurdishgains under threat" by Fehim Tastekin, Al-Monitor
Turkish plans for a ground operation against Kurdish-held areas inSyria have been stalled by Russian and U.S. objections, but a strategy ofsustained pressure seems to be taking shape to incrementally undo Kurdish gainson the ground.
The proposals that Moscow and Washington have reportedly made toappease Ankara would both shrink the area of control of the de factoKurdish-led autonomous administration in northern Syria, though they wouldprevent any Turkish boots on the ground. Moreover, Turkey's talks with Russiaare premised on the prospect of Ankara normalizing ties with Damascus and theRussians using that prospect to pressure the Kurds to compromise with theSyrian government.
In the event of a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) withdrawal infavor of government forces, the normalization pace between Ankara and Damascusis expected to accelerate. The prevailing view among the Kurds is that aneventual Turkish-Syrian reconciliation would rest on the goal of fully undoingthe Kurdish gains, so reaching a deal with Damascus before that happens is seenas vital.
"Turkish mayor's conviction unites opposition, but challengerto Erdogan unclear" by Andrew Wilks, Al-Monitor
The prison sentence and political ban handed to the oppositionmayor of Istanbul has thrown Turkish politics into turmoil as people grapplewith the implications for next year's presidential election.
Most polls had found Imamoglu, who won control of Turkey's largestcity in a 2019 landslide, one of the most likely opposition candidates todefeat Erdogan as he seeks a third term.
The political ban, if upheld on appeal, will bar him from servingin office during the prison term, which could be suspended. A date for theappeal is yet to be set, so it could happen before or after the election.
Erdogan would reportedly prefer to face CHP head KemalKilicdaroglu in the presidential race, which is due to be held alongside a parliamentaryelection. Under his 12 years as CHP leader, the party has failed to win anational election.
The case also appeared to cause discomfort in AKP circles, withmany senior AKP figures and pro-government commentators condemning the outcome.
"The supply chain that keeps tech flowing to Russia" bySteve Stecklow, David Gauthier-Villars and Maurice Tamman, Reuters Special Report
In March this year, a new firm appeared in Turkey's corporateregistry. Azu International Ltd Sti described itself as a wholesale trader of I.T.products, and a week later began shipping U.S. computer parts to Russia. Overthe next seven months, the company exported at least $20 million worth ofcomponents to Russia, including chips made by U.S. manufacturers, according toRussian customs records. Azu International is an example of how supply channelsto Russia have remained open despite Western export restrictions andmanufacturer bans.
One Russian importer, OOO Fortap, based in St. Petersburg, was setup by a Russian businessman in April and has since imported at least $138million worth of electronics, including U.S. computer parts, according toRussian customs records. They show that one of Fortap's biggest suppliers is aTurkish company, Bion Group Ltd Sti, a former textile trader that recentlyexpanded into wholesale electronics.
A Moscow-based logistics firm, OOO Novelco, has been advisingRussian businesses on how to continue importing foreign goods. In March, Novelco'schief executive, Grigory Grigoriev registered in Istanbul a company calledSmart Trading Ltd Sti, Turkish corporate records show. Since then, the companyhas shipped at least $660,000 worth of products made by U.S. semiconductormakers, according to Russian customs records.