by instituDE, published on 19 February 2024


"Turkish-Egyptian Relations: Assessing the Impact of Erdoğan's Cairo Trip" by Mustafa Enes Esen, The Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

President Erdoğan's visit to Cairo on February 14 was marked by high honors, including a warm welcome by President Sisi at the airport and a salute with cannon fire upon his motorcade's arrival at Cairo's Ittihadiya palace. The visit garnered widespread attention, with all major newspapers in Egypt featuring Erdoğan's arrival as their headline news.

Economic cooperation was high on the agenda in the talks between Erdoğan and Sisi. The leaders announced that they have agreed to raise their trade volume to $15 billion in a short period of time and to increase Turkish foreign direct investment in Egypt. Nonetheless, it should be noted that these targets tend to be more symbolic expressions of goodwill rather than grounded in meticulously researched estimations. This raises questions about the practicality of achieving these objectives.

On the other hand, not everything in this visit was about Turkish-Egyptian bilateral relations. Erdoğan used this visit to advance his agenda on other fronts. One of the primary objectives during President Erdoğan's foreign visits appears to be the introduction of his son, Bilal Erdoğan, to the global stage as his heir. Despite the fact that Bilal Erdoğan is not a government official, even lacking an official advisory capacity, he is consistently included in the Turkish delegations, often surpassing other ministers in protocol. 

The significance of Erdoğan's Cairo visit extends beyond diplomatic pleasantries and bolstering economic relations. This visit serves as an unmistakable acknowledgment of President Sisi's legitimacy as the ruler of Egypt by Turkey. President Sisi's upcoming visit to Turkey in April is anticipated to further develop this relationship, particularly in terms of military cooperation. Similarly, these visits provide an opportunity for Erdoğan to introduce his son as his successor, both to the global community and to his ministers and advisors who vie for an upper hand in gaining his favor.

Why Putin delayed a visit to Turkey, again" by Ragip Soylu, Middle East Eye

Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed an official visit to Turkey scheduled for next week due to domestic concerns, such as the upcoming elections, two Turkish sources familiar with the visit told Middle East Eye.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said on Thursday that there was no postponement since Moscow had not announced a definitive date for the visit. Separate sources told Ria Novosti, the Russian state news agency, that a trip might be in the pipeline for late April and May.

The source said the bilateral relations between Ankara and Moscow were stable and there were no negative developments that would have an impact on the trip. 

The Russian presidential elections are scheduled for 15-17 March while Turkey is also holding local elections at the end of March.

Experts say Putin would need a strong standing in the elections as the Ukraine war is becoming unpopular at home. 

Even though Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed a visit to Turkey for a third time, I've heard that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is likely to pay a visit to Antalya, the unofficial capital of Russian exiles and party lovers. He might attend the Turkish foreign ministry hosted Antalya Diplomacy Forum, on 1-3 March, sources tell Middle East Eye.


Erdogan appoints politicians as ambassadors, drawing criticism

President Erdogan appointed 10 individuals, some of whom are politicians from his party with no prior experience in the foreign ministry, as ambassadors.

The decision to appoint ambassadors to various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Portugal, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Chad, and The Gambia, was officially announced on February 16 in the Official Gazette. Contrary to expectations, there was no appointment for Turkey's NATO ally, the United States.

Among the newly appointed ambassadors are Emrullah Isler, a former AKP lawmaker and deputy prime minister assigned to Saudi Arabia, and Ahmet Misbah Demircan, a former deputy minister and district mayor in İstanbul from the AKP, appointed to Tunisia.

Nukhet Hotar, a former AKP lawmaker and current rector of İzmir-based 9 Eylül University, who faced allegations of favoritism and corruption at the university, was also named an ambassador. She had previously served as Turkey's special representative to the Union for the Mediterranean.

Namik Tan, Turkey's former ambassador to the United States and current İstanbul lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) criticized the appointments, highlighting the contrast between diplomatic careers in the "old Turkey" and the "new Turkey" under AKP rule. Tan emphasized the trend of party membership or proximity to the palace being prioritized over traditional diplomatic experience.

Opposition lawmaker criticizes unequal airtime allocation on state-run TV

Lawmaker Ilhan Tasci, a Radio and Television Supreme Council member from the main opposition Republican People's Party, criticized the limited airtime given to Party Chairman Ozgur Ozel on the state-run television channel TRT on his social media. 

Tasci pointed out that while ruling party AKP Chairman and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received 1945 minutes of coverage on TRT within 40 days, CHP Chairman Ozgur Ozel was only allotted 25 minutes of live broadcast time.

Gursel Tekin resigns from CHP, citing departure from party's ideological roots

Gursel Tekin, a prominent figure in the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), announced his resignation from the party on social media on February 13, citing the party's departure from its Kemalist and social democratic values. His resignation came shortly after he was not chosen as a mayoral candidate for İstanbul's Kadıköy or Esenyurt districts, despite being considered for the position. 

Tekin, a former CHP general secretary, and İstanbul MP, expressed his frustration with what he sees as a party culture where internal relationships dictate decisions, leading to the exclusion of dedicated members striving for the party's success. He also highlighted a shift towards prioritizing internal power struggles over efforts to gain political influence, emphasizing the influence of personal relationships over ideological alignment within the party.

Local court cancels plans for Erdogan's "Kanal İstanbul" Project

On February 14, the mayor of İstanbul announced that an İstanbul court canceled the ministry-approved development plans for President Erdoğan's "Kanal İstanbul" project. The proposed artificial sea-level waterway aimed to connect the Black Sea to the Marmara and Mediterranean seas by bisecting the European side of İstanbul. 

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu shared the news on his social media account, stating that objections from İstanbul residents led to the cancellation of the plans. Imamoglu said the İstanbul 11th Administrative Court sided with objections against the plan approved by the Environment, Urban Planning, and Climate Change Ministry, citing concerns about its potential to attract millions of new residents and harm the city's nature and water resources. 

The court also said that the ministry's decision to reject the municipality's objections before the lawsuit was not in line with the law.


Turkish real estate market witnesses lowest foreign house sales in a decade

The Turkish central bank data reveals a significant downturn in home sales to foreign buyers, hitting the lowest point in the past decade. In 2023, the real estate sector experienced a notable decline of 43.3%, dropping to $3.560 billion from a record high of $6.273 billion in 2022, according to the bank's Balance of Payments Statistics released on February 13. 

Real estate purchases accounted for 76.1% of total net foreign direct investment, amounting to $4.678 billion in 2023. 

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) data also indicates a 48.1% decrease in home sales to foreigners compared to the previous year, totaling 35,005 units. This figure represents the lowest point in the six years following 2017. Additionally, the share of home sales to foreigners within total housing sales dropped from 4.5% in 2022 to 2.9% in 2023.

Turkish Central Bank expected to maintain interest rate at 45%

Turkey's central bank is expected to keep its key interest rate unchanged at 45% in the upcoming week, following a 250 basis-point increase last month, signaling the conclusion of its aggressive tightening cycle, according to a Reuters survey released on February 16.

The monetary policy committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 22 follows the appointment of Fatih Karahan as central bank governor on Feb. 3, succeeding Hafize Gaye Erkan.

The median forecast of the Reuters poll suggests that the policy rate is projected to reach 37.5% by the end of 2024. Out of the 10 institutions surveyed, only one anticipates the policy rate remaining at 45% by the year's end, with estimates ranging from 35% to 45%.


Turkish President describes top courts' rulings as "unsettling and incomprehensible"

On February 14, Turkish President Erdogan criticized two top courts during his return flight from Egypt, expressing dissatisfaction with their rulings that contradict his government's position. He particularly mentioned a decision by the Council of State to reinstate 450 judges and prosecutors linked to the Gulen movement. 

Erdoğan described some decisions of both the Constitutional Court and the Council of State as unsettling and incomprehensible. He highlighted a recent order by the Constitutional Court to annul a law allowing the government to restrict online content, citing it as an example of rulings he finds unacceptable.

Turkish court sentences journalists in retrial 

On February 14, a Turkish court held a retrial for journalists and media workers accused of having ties to the faith-based group Gulen movement and convicted two journalists and an art director of aiding a criminal organization. Nazlı İlicak received a sentence of five years and three months, Ahmet Altan got six years and 18 days, while Fevzi Yazici got two years and one month. The court dismissed the charges against Yakup Simsek. 

Altan's lawyer argued that the charge of aiding an armed organization without being a member goes against the Constitution and requested the trial be halted until the Constitutional Court rules on it, but the court denied the request. 

In December, Turkey's Constitutional Court annulled Article 220 § 6 of the Turkish Penal Code, punishing individuals for committing crimes on behalf of an organization without being a member, citing its lack of clarity and predictability.

Turkish police detain 42 people alleged ties to Gulen Movement

Turkish police detained 42 people on February 15 over alleged ties to the faith-based group Gulen movement. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the detentions on social media, stating that they were carried out in 14 provinces.

Yerlikaya said those detained included people staying at unregistered addresses and individuals with upheld prison sentences. The detainees were also accused of involvement in the movement's alleged infiltration of the military and police and of using ByLock, a mobile messaging application frequently seen by Turkish authorities as evidence of membership in the Gulen movement.

Despite a significant European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling last year that criticized the use of ByLock as evidence, Turkish authorities have continued to detain and prosecute alleged ByLock users. The ECtHR judgment highlighted concerns about such evidence's broad and arbitrary nature and the lack of necessary safeguards for a fair trial.


Turkey seeks assurances from Rutte for NATO leadership bid

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's term is set to expire in October. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is among the leading candidates to assume leadership of the alliance.

Bloomberg reported that Turkey seeks assurances from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte before endorsing his candidacy for the next head of NATO.

Ankara wants to ensure that Rutte, or any other candidate, will be impartial towards NATO's European Union members, and specifically that he won't yield to pressure from EU nations Greece and Cyprus, with whom Turkey has ongoing territorial disputes.

Additionally, Turkey wants Rutte to facilitate Ankara's inclusion in NATO partnerships with the EU and ensure there won't be defense export restrictions among NATO allies. Officials stated that Turkey has not yet forwarded the list of demands to Rutte. 

The election of a new NATO Secretary General requires unanimous agreement among NATO's 31 member allies.

Masrour Barzani meets with Erdogan to discuss bilateral ties

Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met on February 13 to discuss bilateral ties and the situation in the Middle East.

The meeting, attended by Turkish foreign, defense, energy, natural resources, and trade ministers, covered the general situation in Iraq and the region, as well as the development of bilateral relations, according to a statement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Both sides emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation and coordination to maintain security and stability in the region, the statement added.

Erdogan pledges cooperation with Egypt for Gaza reconstruction

During his first visit to Egypt since 2012, Erdogan announced Turkey's readiness to collaborate with Egypt in rebuilding Gaza. After bilateral discussions, Erdogan and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, signed a number of agreements and held a joint press conference on February 14 in Cairo.

Erdogan highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as the focal point of their talks and emphasized Turkey's determination to enhance dialogue with Egypt across all levels to foster peace and stability in the region.

Additionally, Erdogan pledged to enhance trade with Egypt to $15 billion in the near future, highlighting ongoing evaluations of energy and defense cooperation between the two nations.

US imposes sanctions on Turkey-based company for transferring technology to Iran

On February 14, the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on a company in Turkey, along with three others in Iran and the United Arab Emirates, as well as three individuals. They were sanctioned for aiding in transferring US technology and goods to Iran and its central bank. 

The Turkey-based company, Ted Teknoloji Gelistirme Hizmetleri Sanayi Ticaret Anonim Sirketi (Ted), which acts as the in-country representative for Iran-based Informatics Services Corporation (ISC) and procured US goods and technology through ISC front companies, has been targeted by the OFAC sanctions.

Turkey and Greece to join German-led missile-defense project

Turkey and Greece will officially become members of a missile-defense project led by Germany on February 15, increasing the total members of the European Sky Shield Initiative to 21, as reported by Bloomberg, citing German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. 

Before a meeting with NATO counterparts in Brussels, Pistorius highlighted the significance of this development, stating that it is a considerable number in a short period. Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Dendias and the Turkish Defense Ministry also confirmed a signing ceremony for February 15. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz initially announced the initiative to enhance Europe's air defenses during a speech in Prague in August 2022.

Russian citizen arrested at Turkish nuclear plant in counter-terrorism operation

Having carried out operations against the Islamic State militant group across 33 provinces last week, Turkish counter-terrorism police detained a Russian citizen working at a nuclear power plant under construction on Turkey's southern coast, security sources said on February 13.

The suspect, who was detected working under a false identity, was caught at the $20-billion Akkuyu nuclear plant, being built by Russian conglomerate Rosatom in the province of Mersin. Police in Mersin stated that a Turkish court has formally arrested the foreign national.