by instituDE, published on 18 September 2023


"African Civil Wars and Turkey's involvement in Sudan" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Sudan's army chief, General al-Burhan, paid an official visit to Turkey on September 13. The Sudanese delegation included Foreign Minister al-Sadiq, intelligence chief Lieutenant General Mufaddal, and most importantly, Director General of the Defense Industries Corporation, Lieutenant General Mirghani Idris Suleiman. This composition suggested that the Sudanese army's visit to Ankara was not merely a charm offensive but also aimed at securing weapons purchases that could potentially alter the course of the ongoing conflict in the country. Burhan knocked on the right door, as Turkey's involvement in Libya and Ethiopia has demonstrated its willingness to take sides in Africa's bloody civil wars.

If these meetings prove enticing to Erdoğan, we may soon witness the flow of Turkish weapons into the Sudanese civil war. The success of this armament program also hinges on the outcome of Burhan's forthcoming visit to the United Arab Emirates, which reportedly backs the RSF. Notably, Ankara has recently normalized its relations with the UAE and is unlikely to engage in another proxy war, as it did in Libya. 

A peaceful and diplomatic resolution remains the best option to end the Sudanese civil war. Burhan was presented with this option during his visit to Ankara. To this end, Ankara could host a meeting between Burhan and Hemedthi, and if materialized, this could represent a significant diplomatic victory for Erdoğan. However, if Burhan chooses the path of war, which seems probable, Erdoğan may be keen on selling Turkish armed drones, particularly those produced by his son-in-law, Selçuk Bayraktar. If Burhan can convince Erdoğan that substantial gains will be made in Sudan, Erdoğan may become more interested in Africa's latest civil war.

"A Snapshot of the Turkish-American Relations: Neither Alliance nor Transactional" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

Since the Turkish presidential elections in May, a much friendlier atmosphere has prevailed in Turkish-American relations, as seen at the 2023 NATO Summit at Vilnius. Although this reconciliation hardly means a return to the strategic alliance concept, it is not fully transactional either. Hanging in the air between alliance and transactionalism, the future of Turkish-American relations depends on the course of the war in Ukraine and Turkish support for the Ukrainian cause.

Putin's expansionism should have triggered the historical rivalry between Turkey and Russia and facilitated a Turkish-American partnership against the common enemy. Yet, the Turkish government's ambition to become an independent power center, its anti-western/American sentiments, authoritarian practices, and Erdogan's opportunism are the main drawbacks of a possible partnership. Therefore, analysts put forward the concept of transactional relations for the future of Turkish-American relations.

NATO's increasing importance and Turkey's support for Ukraine keep the Turkish-American relations afloat. Yet, the war's increasing cost will raise expectations from Ankara – expectations that might be incompatible with Ankara's balancing policy between the US and Russia. If Turkey maintains its dubious attitude in the war, Turkish-American relations may reach a low point once more.

"Does Turkey have new approach to Iran-backed groups in Iraq?" by Mehmet Alaca, Amwaj.media

Turkish former spy chief Hakan Fidan last month traveled to Iraq for the first time since becoming foreign minister in June. The three-day trip was the most comprehensive Turkish diplomatic visit to its neighbor in decades. Fidan met with a plethora of actors from across the political spectrum in both Baghdad and Erbil.

Long-term topics such as water security, development and trade projects, and the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)—an organization blacklisted by Britain, Turkey, and the US—filled the agenda. Given that these issues dominated talks, Turkey is clearly maintaining its traditional stances and priorities in Iraq. However, Fidan's meetings with Iran-backed actors signaled a potential shift in Ankara's approach. The top diplomat's visit to Tehran in early September, shortly after his Iraqi sojourn, emphasizes this dynamic.

Fidan's meetings with senior Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) figures therefore indicate a change in approach with an emphasis on diplomacy. Fidan's schedule was instead an acknowledgment of armed groups' political power in Iraq. Despite their differences, Ankara feels it is necessary to build ties with these Iran-backed actors.

Partly, Turkey is looking to expand its economic and political footprint in Iraq, for example through the Development Road or "Dry Canal" corridor. The 17B USD project aims to link Asia to Europe via highway and railway routes that would connect the southern city of Basra to Turkey. Such major commercial ventures are unlikely to advance without the acquiescence of powerful Iran-backed players in Iraq.

The two neighbors also remain at odds over several issues, including the PKK's presence in Iraq and water supply. Turkey realizes that it cannot solve the PKK problem independently of Iran and Iranian concerns.

Ankara does not want Iran-backed Iraqi actors to hinder its commercial activities. The Turkish fight against the PKK may also necessitate communicating with such groups to limit attacks on the country's bases in northern Iraq. These channels could be vital in times of crisis to prevent unintended escalation.

"Turkey's central bank mulls giant interest rate hike up to 10% to fight inflation" by Mustafa Sonmez, Al-Monitor

Turkey's central bank is considering a mammoth rate hike of up to 10 percentage points next week to step up the fight against a sticky inflation and boost Ankara's economic credentials in the eyes of foreign investors, Al-Monitor has learned.

Sources close to the bank's Monetary Policy Committee (PPK) told Al-Monitor that a possibly drastic hike at the committee's Sept. 21 meeting stem from concerns over monthly consumer inflation topping 9% in July and August as well as other factors inhibiting efforts to rein in prices. 

Whether Erdogan — a self-declared "enemy of interest rates" — and his inner circle will approve of another massive hike remains unknown.

In the bank's assessments, the resurging inflation, which hit an annual high of nearly 60% in August, is a result of the continuing vigor of domestic demand, a consistent services inflation and upward cost pressures stemming from tax and pay hikes and the rising cost of imports due to the weakening of the Turkish lira. 

Sources say that PPK members believe that further big hikes could be needed in the ensuing months.

"The geopolitical impact of IMEC on Turkey" by Fatih Yurtsever, Turkish Minute

At the G20 Leaders' Summit on Sept. 9-10, leaders from the United States, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop the new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). 

IMEC will feature two distinct corridors: the Eastern Corridor, linking India to the Arabian Gulf, and the Northern Corridor, linking the Arabian Gulf to Europe. Turkey, which serves as a bridge between these continents, is not included in IMEC. Consequently, what are the geopolitical ramifications of Turkey's exclusion from IMEC?

When considering the countries involved in the IMEC project as a whole, it becomes clear that the project's goal is to connect forums and initiatives for regional cooperation established under the leadership of the United States. In essence, the IMEC project is a comprehensive effort towards this aim.

Turkey has been excluded from the regional integration projects, including the IMEC project, due to the strained relations between Turkey and the United States. The exclusion of Turkey from IMEC is a significant setback for Turkey's economy and its strategic ambitions. One of the issues that led to this deterioration was Turkey's acquisition of the S-400 air defense system from Russia. Unfortunately, Turkey's foreign policy under the administration of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been unpredictable, focusing on domestic political goals and a populist approach to foreign policy. This has led to losing trust in Turkey as a reliable partner in NATO and the United States. 


Erdogan requests resignation of 14 advisors in Presidential Palace  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faced criticism from the opposition for having many advisors at the presidential palace, asked 14 of them to resign, Odatv news website reported on September 14. Some of these advisors include former Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker Ayse Nur Bahcekapili, Professor Ibrahim Saracoglu, known for natural healing treatments, Fahri Kasirga, a former justice minister, and former journalist Ilnur Cevik.

According to columnist Hande Firat in the Hurriyet Daily on September 15, Erdogan's decision to let go of these 14 advisors is driven by his desire for change and a preference for younger individuals. Fırat pointed out that most of these advisors are over the age of 65 and that they were individually informed of Erdoğan's decision and asked to submit their resignations.

Two figures declare candidacy for main opposition party leadership

Ozgur Ozel, the CHP's parliamentary group leader, officially declared his candidacy for party leadership on September 15, hinting at potential changes leading up to the 2024 local elections. In his announcement at CHP headquarters, Ozel stressed the need for substantial party reform, not limited to just a leadership change. He also criticized the electoral alliance that resulted in 39 CHP-elected MPs switching to other parties, citing concerns about transparency during the process.

The second figure announcing his candidacy for the party leadership on the same day was Prof. Dr. Orsan Kunter Oymen, the nephew of former CHP leader Altan Oymen. He made his announcement during a press conference at the party headquarters.

The upcoming CHP general congress is tentatively scheduled for November 5.


Turkey's current account deficit widens in July, exceeding expectations

In July, Turkey's current account showed a deficit of $5.46 billion, more than the expected deficit of $4.45 billion. This increase in the deficit came after a surplus of $674 million in June.

For the first seven months of 2023, the current account deficit reached $42.28 billion, marking a 31.4 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Official reserves increased by $2,778 million during this period. There was also a net inflow of $392 million from direct investments and a net inflow of $1.16 billion from portfolio investments.

Energy minister: "Turkey plans gas infrastructure expansion"

"Turkey is planning to enhance its gas infrastructure to create a gas exchange hub for southeastern European countries to access gas", Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said.

The expansion efforts will focus on Turkey's Thrace region in the northwest, where LNG gasification terminals and an upgraded storage facility in Silivri will be connected.

Gas from sources like Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia via pipelines will be directed to this hub, and pricing will occur through a local gas exchange, Bayraktar revealed during a press briefing on September 14.

Bayraktar also announced that Turkey is discussing with a Chinese company about constructing a nuclear plant in Thrace, with plans to finalize a deal in the coming months.


Asylum seekers fleeing Turkish political crackdown shot at by both border guards

On September 14, border guards from Turkey and Greece opened fire on a group of 11 asylum seekers who were trying to escape a political crackdown in Turkey. This information was shared by a Kurdish journalist named Meltem Oktay, who posted a video on social media showing the group asking for help.

The video, shared on Twitter, depicted 11 individuals, including women and men, in distress as they sought assistance in the Evros River, which marks the border between Greece and Turkey. They reported being under fire from both sides of the border. 

Later, it was revealed that the group managed to cross the border and seek asylum on the Greek side.


UK foreign secretary visits Turkey to enhance trade, security cooperation

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visited Turkey on September 13 to hold discussions with Turkey's foreign and defense ministers, focusing on boosting cooperation in trade and security.

After meeting with Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cleverly praised Turkey's efforts to revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative. He highlighted that the trade volume between the two countries is around  £25 billion, increasing by about 25 percent annually. Cleverly added that they also discussed sustaining this trade volume and establishing a new and broader free trade agreement.

Cleverly also said that they believe Sweden can play a significant role in NATO and are working to address Turkey's concerns about Sweden regarding extremism and counter-terrorism.

Cleverly also met with Defense Minister Yasar Guler at the Defense Ministry.

Biden administration imposes sanctions on five Turkish companies over Russia ties amid delicate U.S.-Turkey Relations

On September 14, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on five Turkish companies and a Turkish national, alleging their involvement in helping Russia evade sanctions and supporting Russia's actions in the Ukraine conflict. These sanctions primarily target shipping and trade firms accused of aiding in repairing sanctioned Russian defense ministry vessels and facilitating the transfer of goods with dual-use purposes. This move is part of a larger set of sanctions targeting over 150 entities, including Russia's largest carmaker.

This action comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-Turkey relations, as the United States hopes for Turkey's support in ratifying Sweden's NATO membership when the Turkish parliament reconvenes in early October. 

During a press briefing on September 14, US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the United States is confident that these sanctions against Turkish firms would not disrupt the NATO membership ratification process.

Northern Iraq-Turkey oil export route set to resume operations soon

Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar announced on September 14 that Iraq's northern oil export route through Turkey will soon become operational. The minister also said the pipeline has undergone maintenance checks and repairs for flood damage and will be technically ready for operation. However, no specific date for resuming oil flows was mentioned.

Turkey halted oil flow through this route on March 25 due to an arbitration ruling from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ruling required Ankara to compensate Baghdad for unauthorized oil exports conducted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) between 2014 and 2018.

Israel claims discovery of rocket-making materials from Turkey to Gaza

Israel's customs authority reported on September 14 that it discovered 16 tons of materials used for making rockets during an inspection of a shipment from Turkey bound for Gaza. 

The customs authority explained that it had inspected two containers in July, initially labeled as bags of plaster, and later confirmed through lab tests that some of them contained ammonium chloride. They stated that groups in Gaza use this substance to manufacture rockets to launch towards Israel.

The ruling Hamas dismissed these claims as false. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem called the report "lies" and accused Israel of using such claims as an excuse to tighten the blockade on Gaza.

Disagreements over control delay Russia's gas hub plans in Turkey

Russia's efforts to establish a "gas hub" in Turkey, aiming to offset lost gas sales to Europe, are experiencing setbacks due to disagreements over who should oversee the project, according to two insider sources speaking to Reuters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed this idea in October 2022, following explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines connecting Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea. However, responsibility for the blasts remains unclear.

One source revealed that the delay in the gas hub plan is rooted in disputes between Moscow and Ankara about control. Another source, linked to Gazprom, confirmed that there is indeed a "problem" related to management issues.

Turkish drone strikes kill five in Syria and northern Iraq

Two women from a military council associated with the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were killed on September 15 in a Turkish drone strike. The council's general command stated that their car was targeted by a Turkish force drone while traveling towards the village of Al-Hattabat, located south of Manbij. The strike also injured a female and a male person.

On September 17, a Turkish drone strike in northern Iraq killed three people associated with the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to Iraqi security sources, the strike targeted the YSB members in a vehicle in the Sinjar region.

United States lists Turkey as a child soldier recruiting state

The United States, with an update in its 2023 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, added Turkey to the list of countries recruiting child soldiers under the "Child Soldiers Prevention Act."

Turkey has strongly criticized this report, and the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a press release stating that Turkey is actively working to combat human trafficking. "Before attempting such a defamation against Turkey, it would be anticipated from the US, who provides military and financial support to the PKK/YPG terrorist organization, which forcibly recruits children for terrorist activities in Syria and Iraq, to face its own reality." the ministry said.

Turkish President suggests possibility of parting ways with EU following critical report

Turkish President Erdogan said Turkey may part ways with the European Union (EU) following a recent report from the EU Parliament. 

President Erdogan made these remarks on September 16 while speaking to reporters at the airport as he was leaving for the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly. "It seems the EU is trying to distance itself from Turkey, and Turkey will assess the situation and consider parting ways with the EU if necessary," he said.

The EU's recent report stated that Turkey's EU membership process is unlikely to restart under the current conditions due to concerns about democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Turkey. The report also pointed out issues like media restrictions, manipulation of the judiciary, and discrimination against minority groups in Turkey.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry rejected the report, calling it a collection of baseless claims and biases.