by instituDE, published on 2 January 2024


"Venezuela’s Dangerous Play in Essequibo and Lessons from Turkey", by Imdat Oner, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

In early December, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held a referendum, seeking public opinion on the potential inclusion of the sparsely populated Essequibo region of Guyana into Venezuela. Subsequent to the referendum, Maduro instructed state-owned oil and gas companies to grant drilling rights in the environmentally sensitive Essequibo region. Furthermore, he revised Venezuela's official map and established a new military zone covering the disputed area.

Maduro's approach closely mirrors Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's strategies in the Eastern Mediterranean from 2019 to 2022. Motivated by the need to bolster domestic support ahead of crucial elections, Erdogan heightened tensions with Greece and Cyprus, employing territorial disputes and maritime claims to divert attention from mounting economic challenges.

Yet, shortly after Erdogan secured re-election in May, he notably toned down and de-escalated the conflict with Greece. He even made an official visit to Greece last week to improve bilateral relations, after consolidating power domestically.

Drawing parallels, as Erdogan effectively used external threats to heighten security concerns and maintain power, Maduro may similarly escalate the Essequibo crisis until he feels secure domestically. 

In drawing parallels with Erdogan's de-escalation after the elections, one cannot help but speculate on Maduro's motives. Maduro might aim to create a perception of crisis, enabling him to declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections.

The Biden administration should promptly reinstate all the economic sanctions it had lifted on Venezuela, delivering a clear message to Maduro that his conduct is unacceptable.

"Faced with Israel, the double face of Turkey," by Nicolas Bourcier, Le Monde

The Turkish authorities may publicly describe Israel as a ‘terrorist state’ and accuse the West of ‘double standards,’ but they have changed absolutely nothing in their affairs. The flow of goods, such as steel and oil, which fuels Tel Aviv's war machine, continues as if nothing has happened, highlighting the hypocrisy and doublespeak of the leaders.

Journalist Metin Cihan has listed a total of 450 ships leaving Turkey for Israel since the beginning of the war. With the help of the Marinetraffic.com database, he tracks daily shipments of Limak Holding, an industrial giant known to be linked to power circles, from the port of Iskenderun. There are also regular departures from the Istanbul port Ambarli Akcansa, one of the significant Sabanci Group companies. At the Sefine shipyard, located on the edge of the Sea of Marmara and owned by Kolin Holding, close to the government, maintenance of the tanker responsible for delivering fuel to Israeli fighter planes is carried out, according to the journalist's research.

The journalist also identifies that the transport company Manta Shipping continues its activities with Israel. The company belongs to Mert Cetinkaya, ‘an associate of Burak Erdogan, the president’s son,’ says Metin Cihan. « I shared all my sources and methods of investigation. It is irrefutable and has not been denied. The company said trade with Israel continued, and there was nothing they could do about it because a contract was made before the war. » A few days later, he revealed that Erkam Yildirim, the son of former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (AKP), is an associate of Oras Shipping, a shipping company trading with Israel.

Questioned by Al-Jazeera, the Minister of Commerce, Omer Bolat, affirmed that maritime trade between the two countries had fallen by more than 50% in November. «The figure is more like 40%, corrects Metin Cihan, and, above all, this reduction has nothing to do with a political desire to limit relations with Israel or a possible boycott, as the minister implies. This decline is only the result of the effects induced by a conflict of this type, as specialists confirm. Trade between Turkey and Israel continues uninterrupted. »

In 2020, amid renewed economic activity, the Israeli Prime Minister, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, had these words: « The attitude of the Turkish president towards me in public is different in terms of commercial relations between our two countries. »  Benjamin Netanyahu added, « He calls me Hitler every three hours… Now he does it every six hours, but, thank God, trade between Turkey and Israel is booming. »

"In Turkey, Erdogan’s charges of Western hypocrisy stick", The Economist

Nothing makes Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s day like a chance to claim the moral high ground, cast himself as the leader of the Muslim world, and stick it to the West. For nearly three months, the war in Gaza has allowed Turkey’s president to do just that. At a recent conference, Mr Erdogan was in his element, taking swings at Israel for bombing northern Gaza into the ground, and at Western duplicity. “A journalist is killed each day,” he said, referring to the 68 media workers killed in Gaza since the start of Israel’s bombing campaign. “But none of the institutions who preach to us about press freedom for years says even a single word.”

Turkey is a Muslim country whose human-rights record invites considerably more scrutiny than most, because of its membership of NATO and its aspirations to join the EU; its relationship with the West is immensely important. Hence accusations of Western hypocrisy leave a bigger mark than in most other parts of the world. They play into Mr Erdogan’s hands, reinforcing his argument that Turkey should have no patience for Western values and should chart its own course. They weaken his democratically-minded opponents. And they sap outside attempts to promote human rights.

But the long-term implications are just as serious. Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza may make it harder for Western countries to take Turkey to task for attacking civilian infrastructure in Syria, where Turkish troops are fighting Kurdish insurgents. Appeals for Turkey to condemn Russian war crimes in Ukraine risk falling flat when America brushes aside evidence of Israeli ones in Gaza. The perception of Western double standards has already compromised the ability of Europe and America to discuss norms with Turkey, as opposed to just interests. “It was hard enough before Gaza to talk about human rights because Erdogan is so intolerant of outside criticism,” says one Western diplomat. “Now it will be exponentially more so.”

The outside world’s inability to stop the fighting in Gaza not only offers Mr Erdogan the moral high ground he craves, but makes him stronger and even less accountable for his own abuses of power, according to Yigit Aksakoglu, an exiled Turkish civil society activist. “This is a race to the bottom,” he says. 


  • Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is scheduled to visit Ankara on January 4 for talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The discussions are expected to cover the situations in Gaza and Syria and bilateral relations. Raisi's previously planned visit in late November was postponed due to conflicting schedules between the two countries' foreign ministers.


Former Turkish Vice President accused of receiving $50 million bribe to shield mafia group's assets

Cevheri Guven, an investigative journalist, revealed that Fuat Oktay, the former vice president of Turkey, allegedly received a $50 million bribe from a mafia group to prevent the government from confiscating their assets. The claim stems from recordings featuring a former insider now imprisoned for the murder of the group's leader. 

The slain figure, Halil Falyali, had reportedly illicit connections with Turkish government figures and faced charges of money laundering and drug trafficking in the U.S. before his death. The journalist Guven disclosed that the bribe was intended to secure the Falyali family's immunity from extradition requests and protect their assets in Turkey. The journalist also claims that part of the bribe was handed over to the former vice president, Fuat Oktay, in Istanbul, while the majority was transferred in Dubai. Operations against the Falyali family have halted since the bribe.

The recordings also suggest the family engaged in extensive covert surveillance activities, recorded conversations of high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians, and stored these recordings on servers in Israel.

Finally, Guven highlights the potential vulnerability of the Turkish government to blackmail due to the recordings being stored in Israel.

Istanbul's Mayor Imamoglu leads in survey for 2024 re-election against potential ruling party candidates

According to a recent survey by Ankara-based MetroPoll, Istanbul's opposition mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, is likely to secure re-election on March 31, 2024. The survey, conducted on 1,500 individuals across Istanbul's 39 districts between December 9 and 13 and revealed by daily Sozcu columnist Ismail Saymaz on December 26, claims that Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is favored against potential candidates nominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

The candidates include former environment minister Murat Kurum, Selcuk Bayraktar (President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and chief technical officer of Turkish UAV producer Baykar), and Ali Yerlikaya (current interior minister and former Istanbul governor). The survey indicates that Imamoglu holds a significant lead in voter preference against each potential AK Party candidate, with the closest margin being against Bayraktar at 45.1% to 38%.

If Imamoglu competes against Yerlikaya, he would receive 46.6 percent compared to Yerlikaya's 37 percent. Against Kurum, Imamoglu maintains a more than 14-point lead, securing 48.2 percent against Kurum's 33.9 percent.

Pro-Kurdish DEM Party shifts strategy in upcoming local elections

In an interview with Deutsche Welle Turkish on December 29, Tuncer Bakirhan, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, announced a shift in strategy for the upcoming local elections. Bakirhan stated that the party would no longer adhere to the "do not let the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) win" approach. Instead, they have implemented an "urban consensus" system for candidate selection, opening applications to everyone who agrees on basic principles, regardless of DEM Party membership. 

Bakirhan dismissed allegations of talks with the AK Party for securing mayor positions, emphasizing that their only close contact with the ruling party is in police stations, prisons, and detentions. 

When asked about fielding candidates in metropolitan Istanbul and Ankara or supporting the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bakirhan stated, "We are abandoning the old strategy of voting for whoever stood against the ruling party."

President Erdogan optimistic about Turkey's 'real breakthrough' in 2024

In his New Year's message released on December 31, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed optimism for the upcoming year, stating that Turkey is poised for a transformative period in 2024. In a video message, Erdogan declared that 2024 would signify the end of a challenging era for Turkey, emphasizing, "The 2023 goals were the beginning. We are initiating our real breakthrough with the Century of Turkey in 2024."


Turkey announces 49% increase in monthly minimum wage for 2024

Turkey's monthly minimum wage will reach 17,002 Turkish lira in 2024, marking a 49% increase from July and a 100% hike from last January, Labour Minister Vedat Isikhan announced on December 27. The move comes amid concerns that higher wages may contribute to pushing up inflation, which reached 61.98% in November, the highest this year. The central bank may face pressure to continue raising interest rates to cool demand, as inflation is approaching levels beyond its previous expectations.

Turkey's poverty and hunger lines rise in December

On December 26, the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Turk-Is), a major labor union in Turkey, released data indicating that the poverty line for a family of four, representing the amount needed for basic living expenses, was TL 47,009 ($1,594) in December. The hunger line, focusing on essential food costs, was reported at TL 14,431 ($490). Turk-Is' figures show an increase from November's statistics, where the hunger and poverty lines were documented at TL 14,025 ($475) and TL 45,686 ($1,549), respectively.

Turkish Central Bank unveils monetary policy for 2024

In its Monetary Policy for 2024, revealed on December 29, the Central Bank announced its commitment to maintaining the reserve build-up strategy and ensuring a stable uptrend in international reserves throughout the year. The bank emphasized it has no commitment to specific exchange rate levels and will not engage in FX transactions to influence exchange rates. 

The policy document also outlined goals to increase the share of lira deposits to 50% in the banking system and sustain the decrease in the KKM balance in 2024 by prioritizing lira deposits. The bank's international reserves reached a new record of $145.5 billion on December 22, with foreign exchange reserves at $97.6 billion and gold reserves at $47.9 billion. Additionally, the Central Bank reiterated its medium-term inflation target of 5 percent.

Finance Minister Simsek projects positive economic outcomes in 2024

In his New Year's message, Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek expressed confidence that the positive outcomes of the government's economic program would be achieved in 2024. 

Simsek stated on the social media platform X that 2024 would witness a decline in annual inflation, a continuous increase in reserve adequacy, the conclusion of the exchange rate hedging system, sustained improvement in the current account deficit, the establishment of fiscal discipline, and the strengthening of foundations for sustained high growth.


Main opposition party abstains from supporting bill to repeal post-coup decree laws

Despite earlier promises to address the issues faced by victims of purges, Turkey's main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), abstained on a bill on December 27 aimed at repealing post-coup decree laws. The bill, presented by Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a deputy from the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), sought to annul executive decree laws that led to the dismissal of over 130,000 public sector workers after the failed coup in July 2016. 

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the Good Party rejected the bill. The bill received support from DEM, the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP), and the DEVA Party.

Before the elections in May, the CHP had committed to reinstating all previously dismissed public sector employees who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the attempted coup.


Turkey's Foreign Affairs Commission greenlights Sweden's NATO bid

Turkey's Foreign Affairs Commission, led by President Erdogan's ruling AK Party, approved Sweden's NATO membership bid on December 26, marking a significant move in expanding the Western bloc. The commission endorsed the proposal after around four hours of discussions. 

AK Party, along with allies from the nationalist MHP and the main opposition CHP, voted in favor, while the Islamist Felicity party and the right-nationalist Good Party voted against. The next step involves a vote in the parliament's general assembly, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks. 

Commission head Fuat Oktay downplayed expectations for a swift vote in the general assembly,  stating that the parliament speaker would decide the timing.

Erdogan: Turkey to boost military presence in Northern Iraq after loss of 12 soldiers 

President Erdogan announced on December 28 that Turkey will strengthen its recently established permanent bases in northern Iraq in the next few months. This decision comes in response to the loss of 12 Turkish soldiers in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the region last week.

Erdogan said, "We have constructed extensive roads for our permanent bases in northern Iraq in the last years. We are extending these efforts to new areas under our control. By spring, we aim to complete the infrastructure for our newly established bases, ensuring that terrorists cannot operate in the region."

US imposes sanctions on Turkish currency exchange linked to Houthi rebels

On December 28, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an individual and three currency exchange houses, including one in Turkey. The sanctions are in response to their involvement in financing the increasing number of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels against international shipping in the Red Sea. 

According to the Treasury statement, the Turkey-based Al Aman Kargo Ithalat Ihracat ve Nakliyat Limited Sirketi (Al Aman) serves as a waypoint for money sent by the Houthis’ Iranian financiers to the group’s businesses in Yemen. The statement also noted that these individuals facilitated the transfer of "millions of dollars" to the Houthis under the direction of Sa’id al-Jamal, a group linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).

Turkish Super Cup Final in Riyadh postponed amid t-shirt dispute and organizational issues

The Turkish Super Cup final between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, scheduled in Riyadh on December 29, was postponed due to organizational issues. Reports indicate that the disagreement arose from the teams' desire to wear T-shirts featuring Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, during the warm-up. Saudi officials allegedly rejected this request. Saudi state TV cited organizers, Riyadh Season, stating the cancellation resulted from teams not adhering to match regulations. 

The postponement comes amid warming Turkey-Saudi relations and coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic's founding. Turkish President Erdogan criticized the incident at an award ceremony in Istanbul on December 30, stating that turning sports into a political rivalry is misguided and detrimental to the spirit of sports.