by instituDE, published on 16 October 2023


"The Downing of a Drone in Syria: Unlikely to Worsen Turkish-US Relations" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Instead of reassuring allied forces in a conflict zone with whom Turkey needs to cooperate or, at the very least, coordinate the movements of its troops and aircraft, Fidan's statement put them on alert as potential hostile targets. This subsequently led to the downing of a Turkish armed drone near a US base in Syria on October 5, as the US commander on the ground perceived his forces to be under threat. 

Ankara probably mishandled coordination between its own security agencies. US forces contacted the Turkish Army Command Operations Center and issued a warning before it downed Turkey's armed drone. However, the drone was not operated by the army but by the Turkish Intelligence, which apparently lacks experience collaborating with others for such a large cross-border operation.

The downing of the armed drone is unlikely to worsen Turkey's strained relations with the US significantly. This is evident from the ongoing contacts between Turkey and the US. In any case, the close relationship between the US and YPG in Syria will continue to muddy the water for Turkish-US relations for the foreseeable future.

"How Turkey Reacted to Hamas Attacks" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7 has mostly received a welcoming reaction in Turkey. While President Erdogan has called on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides to exercise restraint, other Turkish political leaders have mostly supported the Palestinians. They deliberately avoided criticizing Hamas militants for violence against Israeli civilians.

The Turkish left has given a more mixed reaction. The Turkish Communist Party and Left Party have given unequivocal support to the Palestinian cause, citing historical Israeli oppression. Both parties acknowledged that the Palestinian acts were legitimate resistance in their statements. The Green Left Party, on the other hand, condemned the violence against Israeli civilians while supporting the Palestinian people's struggle for freedom.

The Islamists in Turkey have mostly sided with Hamas. Only, Ali Babacan, former Economy Minister and leader of the Deva Party, described Hamas as an actor who brings the Palestinians' rightly cause into disrepute.

While the Turkish political leaders have mostly avoided condemning the violence against civilians, the social media users are more sympathetic towards Israel. Karabekir Akkoyunlu argued that Israeli support for Azerbaijan against Armenia and the rising tide of anti-Arab Turkish nationalism are the main drivers of this sympathy. In addition to these, as argued by Huseyin Konus, Chairman of InstituDE, anti-AKP sentiments also lead people to take a stance against Hamas.

President Erdogan's first reaction to the Hamas attack was calling the sides to calm down – a reaction which is quite diplomatic and even pro-Israeli by Erdogan's standards. Because of AKP's ideological leanings or Erdogan's opportunism, the Turkish government will probably have difficulty maintaining its balanced approach in such a crisis for a long time. Thus, depending on the course of events in the region, a more Hamas-oriented policy might still be on the table.

"Gaza war tests fragile Israel-Turkey rapprochement as Erdogan ups rhetoric" by Ezgi Akin, Al-Monitor

As Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday shifted away from his initial moderate tone on the conflict between Israeli forces and the militant group Hamas, recent rapprochement between Ankara and the Jewish state appears to be increasingly fragile. 

Erdogan's latest statement on Wednesday accused Israel of "preventing people from accessing their most fundamental needs, by destroying the buildings in which civilians live with bombs." He described the latest actions in Gaza as "not a war, but a massacre." 

His remarks are a departure from the de-escalatory tone he struck in the first few days of the conflict, and a return to the image he built over the years as a champion for the Palestinian cause.

Hamas' unprecedented attack came at a time when Ankara is seeking to deepen its rapprochement with Israel, eyeing economic cooperation, particularly in the energy field.

Erdogan's change in rhetoric exposes the difficulties he faces in balancing efforts to rekindle ties with the Jewish state and his global image as a champion of the Palestinian cause.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, contended the Turkish Foreign Ministry's statement on the first day of the conflict condemning the death of civilians on both sides was "quite significant." 

However, maintaining that tone will be more challenging. Cagaptay told Al-Monitor, "I think [the approach] will change very fast. As more Palestinians die and suffer and fewer Israelis die going forward — that's going to be the imbalance in the conflict in my view, that will significantly shape Erdogan's rhetoric."

"Why Israel-Hamas is Erdogan's new 'mission impossible'" by Elcin Poyrazlar, Politico

As global powers including the US and the Gulf countries seek behind the scenes to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from spreading, the Turkish president has been engaged in his own hectic brand of diplomacy.

But is Erdogan actually well placed for the daunting task of mediation between a belligerent Hamas and vengeful Israel? 

One high-level Turkish official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about sensitive issues, told POLITICO that "any mediation role at this point is a mission impossible."

They [many observers] added that in the aftermath of Hamas' terror attack, which killed more than 1,000 people, Israel "probably would keep its distance from any compromise."

Regional analysts see other hurdles to successful diplomacy. 

Selin Nasi, a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics' European Institute, highlights a further obstacle: Ankara's sympathy with Hamas, which Turkey does not consider a terrorist organization, even though the US and the EU have designated it as such. 

As for any influence that Turkey may have with Hamas, Soli Ozel, a veteran political analyst at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, thinks Hamas "will be more attuned to signals that come its way from Tehran," where the Iranian regime has supported the Palestinian militant group for years.

Nasi, from LSE, added that Israel is calling for clear international support during the crisis. "Israel wants to see where its allies and enemies stand, just like the Bush administration did in the wake of 9/11," she said. "From this perspective, it comes down to whether or not Israel sees Turkey as a reliable ally."

"US fails to combat nations that attack dissidents abroad, report warns" by Joe Davidson, The Washington Post

Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul five years ago this month. That was an explosive example of "transnational repression" — a national security threat that Washington does too little to combat.

Modern technology allows countries to "surveil and intimidate people across borders far more easily than they used to be able to, and that surveillance particularly makes physical attacks more likely and more effective," added Abramowitz, a former Post journalist.

Feds consider China, Iran, Russia, Rwanda and Turkey the main culprits. Ironically, "the US has approved tens of billions of dollars in arms transfers to countries that have reportedly engaged in TNR," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported. 

"Turkey earthquake: Why reconstruction could miss Erdogan's goal" by Ceyda Caglayan and Burcu Karakas, Reuters

Days after the quake and with a national election looming, Erdogan made bold promises. While survivors were still emerging from rubble, he said half the disaster zone would be rebuilt within a year - a total of 319,000 homes.

Eight months on, more than a dozen officials, builders and engineers told Reuters that rising construction costs and economic uncertainty have deterred companies from bidding for government reconstruction contracts, making that deadline look hard to reach, especially in the worst-hit areas.

By the government's own account, 40,000 homes will be ready by the end of November, leaving three months to finish nearly 280,000 more by February.

One senior government official with direct knowledge of the reconstruction plan said the target could be missed, citing insufficient fresh funding to hold new tenders amid rising costs. Another official also cited budget constraints and said new measures were needed to speed things up.

Urbanization Minister Mehmet Ozhaseki and other government officials have publicly stood by Erdogan's deadlines. The minister acknowledged in mid-September it was "not an easy task" for TOKI to build so many homes when it usually builds 60,000-70,000 annually.

In a move that could help speed up reconstruction, last week the president's office published a decree allowing grants and interest free loans for homeowners to build their own houses in the disaster area.

Any delays in rebuilding the southeast could play a role in a nationwide local vote in March, when Erdogan's AK Party (AKP) aims to recover the municipal governments in Istanbul, Ankara and other big cities lost to the opposition in 2019. 


CHP to reject motion allowing entry of foreign soldiers into Turkey

On October 10, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), announced during his party's parliamentary group meeting that his party would oppose the forthcoming motion because it permits the "calling of foreign soldiers to Turkey when needed." He emphasized that the CHP is ready to back any anti-terrorism measures but does not want foreign troops to enter Turkey. 

The presidential motion, which seeks to extend the presence of the Turkish armed forces (TSK) in Syria and Iraq for two years, will be voted in the following week.

Turkish Parliament holds closed session on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calls for urgent peace talks

On October 12, the Turkish Parliament held a closed session to conduct a general debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan provided lawmakers with an update on the recent surge in violence during the closed-door meeting, attended only by lawmakers and essential staff members who had taken an oath of confidentiality.

During this session, the Turkish Parliament released a joint statement on the Palestine-Israel conflicts, signed by six political parties from both ruling and opposition alliances. The statement urged for immediate peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

Turkish opposition leader Davutoglu says open to an alliance with AKP for 2024 local elections

On October 13, during a press conference held in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, Ahmet Davutoglu, the leader of the Turkish opposition Future (Gelecek) Party, declared that his party is open to discussing the formation of an alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the upcoming 2024 local elections.

He stated, "If any party or leader wishes to meet with us, our door is always open, and we are available for discussions at any time. Alliance discussions are a matter of principle. We need to consider each province and district separately regarding alliances in local elections. We can potentially collaborate with various parties to support a strong candidate."


BofA report: International investors express cautious optimism about Turkey

A Bank of America report, summarizing the opinions of investors who had private discussions with Turkey's Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek in London, suggests that international investors feel Turkey's efforts to attract foreign investment are progressing slowly.

The comments in an eight-page document marked as "confidential" but reported by Bloomberg revolve around conversations with Minister Simsek held on October 4-5.

Since assuming office in June, Simsek has been touring the world to encourage foreign investments in Turkey.

While many investors appreciated Simsek's transparency and openness, only a few were willing to invest. Investors pointed to the Turkish economy's substantial challenges, ongoing concerns about political changes, and doubts about whether Simsek and his team have the authority to tackle the necessary challenges.

The report quoted a British firm that manages approximately $500 billion in funds as stating, "We are encouraged by the change in policy direction, but the scale of the challenge ahead is still too great." Meanwhile, a US hedge fund cited "the possibility of policy reversal" as its primary concern.

Another British fund manager handling over $50 billion in funds expressed concerns about negative real interest rates, while a different investor raised worries about inflation and foreign exchange reserves.

IMF raises Turkey's growth forecast for 2023

In the "World Economic Outlook, October 2023" report, the IMF raised its growth projection for Turkey by 1 percent to 4 percent for this year, attributing the increase to "stronger-than-expected domestic demand" in its report. For 2024, the IMF has set the growth expectation for the Turkish economy at 3 percent.

The IMF's inflation forecast for Turkey in 2023 stands at 64 percent, with a projected inflation rate of 54.3 percent for 2024. 


PACE calls on Turkey to comply with ECtHR rulings, demands release of businessman Kavala

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution on October 12, urging Turkey to adhere to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings and demanding the immediate release of philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala.

The resolution calls for high-level engagement with Turkish authorities to secure the prompt release of imprisoned Turkish philanthropist Kavala. Significantly, PACE suggests using "Magnitsky legislation" or other legal means to apply targeted sanctions on Turkish officials, including prosecutors and judges involved in the "unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty" of Kavala.

Furthermore, the resolution reminded that PACE could question the credentials of the Turkish delegation at its first part-session of 2024 if Kavala remains in prison beyond January 1, 2024.

On October 13, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing PACE of trying to abuse legal procedures for political purposes by approving a resolution demanding Osman Kavala's immediate release. The ministry described the adoption of the resolution as a "historic mistake".

International human rights organizations call on Turkey's Chief Justice to align with ECtHR rulings 

On October 12, international human rights organizations and legal professionals penned a joint letter to Turkey's Chief Justice, Zuhtu Arslan. In the letter, they call for the top court to align its actions with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). 

Signatories of the letter include the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, the Italian Federation for Human Rights, The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, Javier Cremades, lawyer and president of the World Jurist Association, Dominique Attias, a lawyer, former president of the Federation des Barreaux d'Europe.

These rights groups and legal professionals criticized the top court's failure to comply with ECtHR judgments that found fault with Turkey concerning the pretrial detention of judges Hakan Bas and Alparslan Altan in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt. They also raised concerns about the case of Yıldırım Turan, another judge placed in pretrial detention following the coup attempt.


Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria to collaborate to address Black Sea floating mine threat

On October 11, the Turkish Defence Ministry announced on the social media platform X that Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria would collaborate to tackle the threat of floating mines in the Black Sea arising from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 

The ministry did not provide specific details about their approach but mentioned that discussions occurred during the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels.

White House criticizes Turkish airstrikes in Syria, Erdogan expresses concerns over US actions

The United States criticized Turkey's ongoing airstrikes in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish militant groups, stating that they undermine the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), endanger civilians, and create regional instability.

The White House issued a statement on October 12, asserting that Turkey's military offensive in northeast Syria jeopardizes efforts to defeat ISIL, poses a threat to civilians, and undermines peace, security, and stability in the region. The statement also noted that these actions present an unusual and extraordinary threat to US national security and foreign policy.

On October 13, Turkish President Erdogan accused the United States of putting Turkey's national security at risk by collaborating with Kurdish militant groups in the region. Erdogan highlighted concerns about US activities with groups he considers extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), specifically the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey calls on Israel for humanitarian aid access to Gaza, criticizes forced relocation

During a joint press conference in Ankara with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on October 10, Turkish President Erdogan criticized the United States for moving a carrier strike group closer to Israel, warning that it could lead to "serious massacres" in Gaza.

On October 11, President Erdogan reportedly initiated negotiations with Hamas to secure the release of Israeli hostages who were taken captive by Palestinian militants.

On October 13, Turkish President Erdogan called on Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza via Egypt's Rafah crossing following the arrival of the first Turkish aid plane in Egypt.

During a speech in Istanbul, Erdogan also mentioned that Turkish authorities are actively working to secure the release of hostages and find a solution to the ongoing crisis.

On the same day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized Israel for calling Gazans to move south within 24 hours before a planned ground operation, deeming it inhumane and violating international law. 

In a statement, Turkey called Israel to rectify this significant error and cease brutal actions against Gaza's civilian population.

Additionally, on October 14, during his first visit to Egypt as minister, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan declared Turkey's support for Egypt in opposing the forced exile of Palestinians from Gaza during the Israel-Hamas conflict. Fidan stressed the importance of taking action to prevent further escalation and restart peace negotiations toward a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.