by instituDE, published on 2 October 2023


"Why is the presence of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh important?" by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

Ensuring the well-being of the Armenian population and enabling them to continue residing in the region is not only essential from a humanitarian perspective but also holds significance for Azerbaijan. Armenia's maintenance of its ethnic, historical, and cultural ties with Nagorno-Karabakh is of particular importance due to the Zangezur Corridor. This corridor connects Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan and, subsequently, to Turkey through Armenia. If the Lachin Corridor loses its strategic importance because of a significant Armenian exodus, the feasibility of establishing a direct connection between Turkey and Azerbaijan via the Zangezur Corridor may become uncertain.

If the Armenian presence in Nagorno-Karabakh were to diminish significantly due to emigration or deportation, Armenia might resist efforts to establish road and rail links between Turkey and Azerbaijan through its territory. Alternative routes through Iran or Georgia would not necessarily foster improved bilateral relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Iran, in particular, opposes a corridor that bypasses its territory, as it perceives such a corridor as a challenge to its regional influence and has advised against it.

The current situation, including the leadership of Prime Minister Pashinyan, offers an opportunity for achieving lasting peace, as Pashinyan has expressed a desire to improve relations with Turkey and the West. If this opportunity is not seized, the animosity between the two populations may persist across generations, leading to continued conflict in the region.

"Erdogan overplays his hand on Sweden's NATO bid", by the Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan relishes his country's role as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's swing state, pivoting not between one faction and another within the Western alliance but between the alliance itself and its main antagonist, Russia. Hence his bartering and gamesmanship, designed to enhance his role as power broker — and extract concessions — even as he subverts his own NATO allies.

Mr. Erdogan's obstructionism is contagious. It has apparently emboldened another problem child in NATO, Hungary. Having previously promised to back Sweden's accession, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has threatened to impede it, irked at Stockholm's criticism of his authoritarian ways.

Mr. Erdogan is at risk of overplaying his hand. His efforts at horse-trading, in return for giving Sweden the nod on NATO, have included demanding progress toward Turkey joining the European Union and bullying Stockholm to legislate a formal ban on burning the Quran — an act of protest that has lately become more common. The former is a non-starter; the latter an affront to Sweden's tradition of freedom of expression.

His best option, and NATO's, is to move forward with the deal that Mr. Biden and key members of Congress have signaled they are prepared to offer — the F-16 package once Turkey formally ratifies Sweden's NATO membership.

"After Nagorno-Karabakh offensive, can Turkey play nice with Armenia?" by Barin Kayaoglu, Al-Monitor

While publicly supporting Azerbaijan's 24-hour offensive into the Armenian-occupied portions of Karabakh, Turkey's long-term interests and the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might be developing a more constructive approach to Armenia.

Ankara's top geo-political interests in the region include establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, setting up direct trade routes to Azerbaijan and other Central Asian Turkic republics, and reducing Western and Russian influence in the Southern Caucasus by increasing its own footprint. 

Beyond the short- and medium-term geopolitical benefits, better relations with Armenia could bolster Ankara's global prestige. Turkish sources who spoke to Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity, describe the ongoing normalization as "a once-in-a-lifetime, historic opportunity." 

One source even painted a near-fantastical picture on how a Turkish-Azerbaijani-Armenian peace could be "sold" to the citizens of the three countries. Erdogan would be joined by Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev near Mount Ararat or another location of historic and cultural importance and embrace, signal to the world that they were leaving their nations' troublesome past behind. 

Coming from Turkish national security bureaucrats, who are traditionally skeptical toward the Armenian government and diaspora due to dark history in the 1970s and 1980s, visualizing such an image showed that the thinking of some in Ankara is changing.

"Elon Musk Would Be Crazy To Build Tesla EVs In Turkey" by Michael Rubin, 19FortyFive 

In their New York meeting, Erdogan reportedly asked Musk to build a Tesla factory in Turkey. It would not be their first time doing business together.

Musk's SpaceX won a Turkish contract to launch Turkish satellites. It was an immoral deal as Turkey could use its satellites to expand the reach of drones it uses to kill Yezidis, Kurds, and Armenians, but it did bring the two men closer.

When it comes to Turkish Teslas, Musk would be crazy to oblige. Erdogan follows the China model: Attract foreign tech business to Turkey with lucrative offers or diplomatic pleading, and then siphon off the technology for Turkey's own domestic industry.

If Musk allows Erdogan to charm him or tempt him with Turkey's 85 million-person market, he may win short-term gain. Still, he would end up paying the price when Erdogan suddenly announces his own electric car based entirely on Tesla technology.

In such a case, there would be no recourse. Courts in Turkey are under Erdogan's full control, and Turkey does not abide by intellectual property rights.


Pro-Kurdish Green Left Party rebrands as Democratic Peoples' Party

Turkey's Green Left Party (YSP) changed its name to the Democratic Peoples' Party (DHP). The decision to adopt the new name was reached during a meeting of the Central Executive Board on September 25.

Previously, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) had participated in the May elections using the YSP name as a precautionary measure to avoid potential challenges related to its possible closure before the elections.

HDP is currently facing a legal case for terrorism, a case that is still pending before the Constitutional Court.

Explosion near Turkey's Parliament injures two police officers

On October 1, a terrorist attack occurred near Turkey's parliament in Ankara, injuring two police officers. A powerful explosion, followed by large flames, was heard from several kilometres away.

The Turkish Parliament, located near the ministry, was scheduled an opening ceremony for the new legislative term on the same day as the explosion.

According to Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, two attackers arrived in a commercial vehicle at around 9:30 a.m. and carried out a bomb attack in front of the entrance gate of the General Directorate of Security of the Ministry of the Interior.

The ministry stated that one of the terrorists detonated explosives while the other was neutralized. Two officers sustained minor injuries.

The Ankara prosecutor's office has initiated an investigation and restricted access to the area.

According to a website affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the attack near the ministry was reportedly carried out by a group called the "Immortals Battalion".

A senior Turkish official also reported to Reuters that the attackers hijacked a vehicle and killed its driver in Kayseri, a city located 260 km (161 miles) southeast of Ankara, before carrying out the attack. 


Turkey's Central Bank lifts minimum interest rates on FX-protected deposits

On September 25, the Turkish Central Bank announced that it lifted the minimum interest rates on FX-protected deposits. This change allows banks to offer interest rates below the policy rate. Before this move, the minimum interest rates were the same as the policy rate.

As a result of this decision, lira deposits have become more attractive compared to FX-protected deposits. Over the past month, banks have started converting existing FX-deposit accounts into regular lira deposits.

Turkish banking sector records 39% rise in net profits in eight months

The Turkish banking sector witnessed a remarkable 39% surge in net profits during the first eight months of 2023, as the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) reported on September 29. This increase brings the sector's net profit to 350.58 billion Turkish lira ($13.2 billion) compared to the previous year.

Moreover, the sector's total assets saw substantial growth, with a year-on-year increase of 60.2%, reaching 20.33 trillion Turkish lira ($700.67 billion) by the end of August.

Loans, a significant component of their assets, amounted to 10.44 trillion Turkish lira ($393.56 billion), reflecting a substantial 56.75% increase compared to the same period in the previous year.

Turkey's foreign trade deficit surges to nearly $110 billion 

Turkey's foreign trade deficit surged to almost $110 billion last year, according to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) and the Ministry of Trade released on September 29.

In August, Turkey's exports went up by 1.6 per cent, reaching $21.6 billion, while imports decreased by 6.9 per cent, amounting to $30.2 billion compared to August 2022, leading to a 12-month foreign trade deficit of $109.5 billion.

For August, the foreign trade deficit dropped by 23.1 per cent compared to the same month last year, decreasing from $11.2 billion to $8.6 billion.

From January to August 2023, the foreign trade deficit increased by 11.9 per cent compared to the previous year's period, going up from $73.5 billion to $82.3 billion.

BOTAS raises gas and electricity prices by 20% for industrial users

Turkey's state energy importer, BOTAS, announced on September 30 a 20% increase in natural gas prices for both small to medium-sized industrial customers and large industrial users. This increase also applies to the price of gas used for electricity production, BOTAS said.


ECHR issues a landmark ruling in Yalcinkaya v. Turkey Case

On September 26, 2023, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights made a significant decision in the Yalcinkaya v. Turkey case. They found that Yalcinkaya's conviction violated several important European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) rules. These rules include no punishment without law (Article 7 ECHR), the right to a fair trial (Article 6 § 1 ECHR), and the freedom to assemble and associate (Article 11 ECHR).

Yalcinkaya was convicted for using an encrypted messaging app called ByLock, similar to Signal and Telegram. Turkish courts claimed ByLock was exclusively used by the members of the "Gulen Movement".

Grand Chamber also pointed out that the problems leading to these violations were not isolated incidents but systemic issues. The Grand Chamber called on Turkey to take necessary steps to address these systemic problems, particularly how the Turkish judiciary handles evidence related to ByLock.

Turkish Minister of Justice Yilmaz Tunc stated on September 28 that the ruling should not be considered a precedent for similar cases, while the ruling explicitly says so. Tunc explained that each case has unique aspects and that the verdict won't establish a standard for future cases. He also said a detailed ruling is awaited before making a comprehensive statement.

Report highlights Turkey's role in transnational repression

A report by the Orion Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, has identified Turkey as both a perpetrator and a destination for transnational repression, which refers to governments trying to intimidate, harass, silence, or persecute citizens living abroad.

The report places Turkey among the most frequent perpetrators, alongside China, Russia, Iran, Egypt, and Tajikistan. Since the failed military coup in 2016, the Turkish government has been accused of involving over 40 abductions and renditions of individuals in various countries. In some "developing countries," these actions occurred through bribing local officials.

Turkey's tactics in harassing its critics abroad include the misuse of INTERPOL, an international law enforcement organization. They have reportedly used INTERPOL's mechanisms like Red Notices and diffusions to seize targeted individuals. Furthermore, Turkey is accused of entering fraudulent information into INTERPOL's Stolen and Lost Travel Document (SLTD) database, falsely reporting its opponents' passports as stolen to hinder their international travel.

Regarding host countries, the report mentions that Iran has used repressive tactics against dissidents living in Turkey, including the deportation of 33 Iranian Kurdish activists back to Iran. The report also sheds light on the challenges faced by Turkey's Uyghur community.

CHP's Antalya Municipality cancels Golden Orange Film Festival due to pressures over a documentary film

The Antalya Municipality in southern Turkey, governed by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), has canceled the 60-year-old Golden Orange Film Festival, originally scheduled for October 7-14. This decision comes in the wake of controversy surrounding the documentary film titled "The Decree," which focuses on two civil servants purged through government decrees following the coup attempt in 2016. Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek announced the festival's cancellation on Twitter.

Initially, the festival removed the documentary but later reversed its decision after facing backlash from directors and jury members who protested against censorship. However, Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry withdrew its support on September 28, accusing the festival of allowing "terror propaganda." Finally, the city decided to cancel the entire festival on September 29.

Workers Party launches protest march from Hatay to Ankara 

Erkan Bas, the chair of the Workers Party of Turkey (TIP), announced on September 28 that his party would launch a march from Hatay in the south to Ankara, the Turkish capital, starting on October 1. They are protesting the recent verdict that upheld the convictions of five defendants in the Gezi Park trial, which includes a TIP lawmaker, Can Atalay.

On September 28, the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a life sentence for businessman Osman Kavala and 18-year prison sentences for the other four defendants. Can Atalay, also a human rights lawyer, has remained in prison despite being elected to the Parliament in the May general election, which should have granted him parliamentary immunity.

The TIP's march, which started on October 1, is expected to take around a month since the distance between Hatay and Ankara is approximately 700 kilometres.


Turkish President meets his Azerbaijani counterpart in Nakhichevan 

Turkish President Erdogan met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on September 25 in Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani exclave between Armenia and Iran bordering Turkey. The meeting occurred shortly after Azerbaijan took control of Nagorno-Karabakh, an area with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population. 

While the official purpose of the visit was to launch a gas pipeline construction project, Erdogan and Aliyev were also expected to discuss matters related to Nagorno-Karabakh and the opening of Armenia's Zangezur corridor to Azerbaijani access.

During a joint news conference, leaders received no questions from press members. Presidents Erdogan and Aliyev held a signing ceremony for the agreements reached between the countries. During the visit, a groundbreaking ceremony for the Igdir-Nakhchivan natural gas pipeline took place, and a protocol of intent for the Kars-Nakhchivan railway project between Azerbaijan and Turkey was signed.

On September 27, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey had a telephone conversation to discuss the regional situation, as stated by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

US Treasury imposes sanctions on companies from Turkey for support to Iran's UAV Program

On September 27, the United States imposed sanctions on individuals and entities from China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran. The sanctions were imposed because these entities were allegedly aiding Iran's attack drone program, which the US claims is supplying drones to Russia for use in Ukraine. 

The US Treasury specifically targeted five entities and two individuals who were part of a network involved in procuring sensitive components, including servomotors, which play a role in controlling the position and speed of Iran's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program.

Among the entities, two Turkish companies, Dal Enerji Madencilik Turizm Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Sirketi and Anka Port Ic ve Dis Ticaret Insaat Lojistik Sanayi Limited Sirketi, were targeted by the Treasury. They were accused of facilitating transactions related to PESC's procurement of servomotors from Hong Kong Himark.

New Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to review Turkey's F-16 deal

The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, said he would review Turkey's $20 billion deal with Lockheed Martin for F-16 fighter jets. He emphasized that several factors, not just Sweden's potential NATO membership, would influence the decision to lift his predecessor's long-standing hold on the deal.

Senator Cardin declared the need to discuss various issues with the administration and also noted that he had talked with Turkish officials about Sweden's NATO accession during a NATO ambassador's meeting on September 27.

The previous committee leader, Senator Menendez, had to step down due to Senate rules after he and his wife were charged with felony bribery.