by instituDE, published on 24 July 2023


"European Parliament rebuffs Turkey's NATO-EU trade-off" by Nazlan Ertan, Al-Monitor

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempt to trade Sweden's NATO bid for Turkey's European Union membership was rebuffed by the European Parliament (EP) Tuesday, with a new report underlining that the two processes were unrelated. The European deputies called on the EU to start a reflection process to find an "alternative and realistic framework" in substitution for Turkey's EU accession process. 

"We have recently seen a renewed interest from the Turkish government in reviving the EU accession process. This will not happen as a result of geopolitical bargaining, but when Turkish authorities show real interest in stopping the continuous backsliding in fundamental freedoms and the rule of law," the EP's Turkey rapporteur, Nacho Sanchez Amor, said after his report was accepted 47 in favor, none against, and 10 abstentions in the EP Foreign Affairs Committee. It will come before the general assembly in the fall.  

The EP report maintains that while they urge Turkey and the EU to break the current deadlock in ties, Turkey's bid for membership cannot go further without Turkey taking serious steps to abide by EU laws, principles and obligations, particularly in respecting democratic values, the rule of law and human rights. 

The report draws a dark picture of the democratic backsliding in Turkey, saying that "a relentless crackdown on any critical voice, particularly ahead of and during the recent elections," continued throughout 2023.

"Turkey is granting citizenship to international criminals" by Sinan Ciddi, Foundation for Defense of Democracies 

As part of its "golden passport" program, Turkey is providing sanctuary to international criminals by selling Turkish citizenship to anyone who can pay the fee. Only a handful of countries pursue a policy of actively granting citizenship to people with overt criminal backgrounds. Erdogan's Turkey is a poster child for such an effort, thereby inhibiting international law enforcement agencies' efforts to apprehend notorious criminals, purposefully undermining Western states' safety and security. 

Reporting by Vice identifies Turkish passports being given specifically to drug traffickers, who "are using Turkey's citizenship laws to evade trial in other countries." 

Aside from drug traffickers, Turkey is known to provide passports and residence to international terrorists affiliated with Hamas. In 2020, Turkey granted citizenship to Ismail Haniyeh, a key Hamas leader residing in Turkey, allowing him to acquire a Turkish passport and travel internationally with increased ease. In December 2022, Turkey also granted citizenship to Moaz Ismail Haniyeh, son of Ismail Haniyeh.

Finally, Turkey continues to back al Qaeda-affiliated entities in Syria, namely Hayat Tahrir Al Sham. Ankara provides weapons, salaries, and logistical support as a means to limit and undermine the influence of Syrian Kurdish groups, such as the U.S.-aligned People's Protection Units, which Ankara considers to be a terrorist organization because of its ties to the Kurdish Workers' Party.

"Secret talks to return Ukrainian children taken by Russia" by Max Seddon, Anastasia Stognei, Henry Foy, Christopher Miller and Samer Al-Atrush, Financial Times

Saudi Arabia and Turkey are seeking to broker a deal to repatriate Ukrainian children taken to Russia and held in children's homes or adopted by Russian families, according to four people familiar with the talks.

Officials in Kyiv and Moscow are compiling lists of the thousands of children moved to Russia since President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, as part of the mediation process, which has not been previously reported.

The highly sensitive talks, which have been ongoing for several months, indicate third parties are still looking for ways to agree compromises between Ukraine and Russia in the hope they can evolve into channels for potential peace talks aimed at ending the war.

Former Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, who has previously mediated with Ukraine with Putin's blessing in peace negotiations, prisoner exchanges and a grain deal, is also involved in the discussions, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Spokespeople for Putin, Zelenskyy, the Turkish government, and Abramovich did not respond to requests for comment. The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The mediators hope Ukraine and Russia can both agree on a tally of the children so their families can reclaim them. "This is too sensitive, no one trusts anyone. They need an independent body that will have the data of all the children and will be accepted by both countries," a person involved in the talks said.


Imamoglu's leaked video sparks "change" debates within CHP

A 14-minute video of a Zoom meeting featuring Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu and other CHP executives, including CHP parliamentary group leader Ozgur Ozel, parliamentary group deputy leader Gokhan Gunaydın, lawmaker Engin Altay, and Party Assembly (PM) members Tekin Bingol, Onursal Adıguzel and Bulent Tezcan, was leaked on YouTube, leading to growing tensions within the party. 

In the meeting, they discussed preparing a text calling for an extraordinary Party Assembly meeting and a possible "change" within the CHP following party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's defeat against President Erdogan. 

Imamoğlu stated that the meeting was not secret, but they will investigate the leak. Kılıçdaroglu found the meeting "unacceptable". Party spokesperson Faik Oztrak said the party management was unaware of the meeting and has not approved meetings that are not in line with the party's customs and ethics.

Good Party denies alliance with CHP for local elections

During a press meeting at the Good Party headquarters on July 19, Good Party spokesperson Kursad Zorlu denied the reports of any cooperation between his party and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) for the March 2024 local elections. 

He said their focus is to make the Good Party the leading party, and they are currently discussing the strategy for the upcoming local elections.

Columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, in a July 18 opinion piece in the pro-government daily Hurriyet, claimed that the Good Party and CHP would form an alliance once more for the upcoming local elections.

Turkish Parliament to hold an extraordinary session on July 25 with economic agenda 

An extraordinary Turkish Grand National Assembly session is scheduled for July 25th following a call from the main opposition party CHP. On that day, all members of the Parliament, including opposition MPs and those from the AK Party and MHP, are expected to be present in the General Assembly Hall. 

The main topic of discussion will be the CHP's proposals on the economy, and representatives from other political parties with groups in the Parliament will also share their opinions on the agenda.


Turkish Central Bank raises interest rates by 250 basis points to 17.5%, Turkish lira hits new lows

On July 20, Turkey's Central Bank raised interest rates by 250 basis points, from 15% to 17.5%, a lower increase than expected. The increase is the second consecutive rate hike after changes were made to the country's economic management team, aiming for tighter monetary policies. 

The bank stated its commitment to tightening monetary policy further to combat inflation and control pricing behavior, considering the rise in underlying inflation trends driven by domestic demand, wage and exchange rate pressures, and services inflation. 

As a result of the bank's decision, the Turkish lira increased by 0.47% against the dollar and fell to new lows at 26.93 lira. Traders who asked not to be named said that state-run banks have recently refrained from selling dollars to support the lira during times of decline. The state lenders do not publicly disclose or discuss their actions in the currency markets. 

JPMorgan revised Turkey's growth and inflation outlooks after the central bank's smaller-than-expected interest rate hike. The bank now predicts full-year economic growth will reach 4% by year-end, up from the previously expected 3.2%. Inflationary pressures have also intensified, and JPMorgan analyst Fatih Akcelik now expects year-end inflation to be 57%, up from the previous estimate of 50%. Despite these changes, JPMorgan maintains its year-end policy rate forecast at 30% and anticipates a 250-basis point hike at each meeting by the end of the year.

On July 21, the Turkish central bank published a table in the Official Gazette introducing a 15% required reserve for FX-protected lira deposits to tighten monetary policy further. According to bankers, this move will withdraw around 450 billion to 500 billion Turkish lira ($16 to $18 billion), of liquidity from the market.

Turkish budget deficit widens to $8.37 billion in June

In June, Turkey's budget deficit significantly increased to 219.6 billion lira ($8.37 billion), marking a seven-fold rise from the previous year, as reported by Treasury data. The primary deficit, excluding interest payments, also widened to 182.3 billion lira compared to 18.29 billion in the same period last year. The total budget deficit reached 483.2 billion lira for the year's first half.

In response to the growing deficit, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek issued a circular to all state institutions, urging them to review expenditures, reduce bureaucracy, and optimize resource utilization. The circular excludes spending on devastating earthquakes that struck southern Turkey in February, resulting in the loss of more than 50,000 lives.

Turkey raises Euro rate for medicine prices by 30.5% 

Turkey raised the euro-lira conversion rate for medicine prices by 30.5%, setting it at 14.0387 lira per euro, according to the Official Gazette. This new rate is almost half of the market rate, as the lira stands at 29.9727 against the euro. The increase in medicine prices may contribute to further inflation, which is expected to rise due to the devaluation of the lira and recent tax hikes introduced by Ankara. Economists are revising their end-2023 inflation forecasts to around 60% from the previous 38.21% in June.


Kosovo Court sentences former spy chief over Turkish arrests

A Kosovo court sentenced the ex-secret service chief, Driton Gashi, to four years and eight months in prison for unlawfully arresting and extraditing six Turkish nationals to Turkey in 2018. 

The Turkish authorities accused the individuals of having ties to the Gulen movement. Following their deportation, the six Turkish nationals were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to fifteen years in Turkey.


Russia quits grain deal, sparks concerns over food crisis 

Russia quit the deal allowing safe Black Sea export of Ukraine's grain, which expired on July 17. The agreement had been facilitating Ukraine's grain export for the past year. 

On July 19, Russia also declared that the United Nations has a three-month timeframe to implement the terms of a memorandum, which would enable Russian agricultural exports. If these conditions are met, Moscow would consider resuming talks about allowing Ukrainian grain exports to restart, Kremlin added.

On July 21, returning from a trip to Gulf countries and Northern Cyprus, Turkish President Erdogan said that his upcoming talks with Russian President Putin in August may lead to restoring the Black Sea grain initiative. He urged Western countries to consider Russia's demands. Erdogan also warned that terminating the deal could cause global food price increases, scarcity in certain regions, and potential waves of migration.

Erdogan says open to meeting with Syrian President 

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul before his departure for a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, Turkish President Erdogan stated on July 17 that he is open to meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, he deemed the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syrian territory an unacceptable precondition for talks. 

Erdogan emphasized that Turkey has never closed the door to discussions with the Syrian government. He also proposed the possibility of a four-party summit involving Syria, Russia, and Iran. Erdogan asserted that Turkey is actively fighting terrorism in the region and cannot withdraw troops while facing continuous threats along its border.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia sign defense contract during Erdogan's visit

On July 18, Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase Turkish drones in what is being hailed as Turkey's biggest defense contract. President Tayyip Erdogan's diplomatic efforts to mend ties with Gulf powers and support Turkey's struggling economy have borne fruit as the deal was signed between Turkish defense firm Baykar and the Saudi defense ministry. Erdogan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the signing ceremony in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

According to Saudi Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman, the acquisition of drones is aimed at strengthening the readiness and capabilities of the kingdom's armed forces. Baykar CEO Haluk Bayraktar stated that this contract marks the biggest defense and aviation export deal in Turkey's history without giving details about the value of the deal.

In addition to the drone agreement, the two countries signed several memorandums covering various sectors, including energy, real estate, and direct investments.

President Erdogan visits Qatar on the second day of his Gulf tour

On the second day of his Gulf tour, President Erdogan visited Qatar and was welcomed by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Temim bin Hamed Al Thani, in Doha. During his visit, Erdogan presented Turkey's first domestic automobile, Togg, as a gift to the Emir. 

The two leaders held meetings at Lusail Palace, including a head-to-head discussion followed by an inter-delegation meeting. Both countries signed a joint declaration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Qatar. After concluding his visit to Qatar, President Erdogan proceeded to the United Arab Emirates, marking the final stop of his Gulf tour.

Erdogan secures $50.7 billion in deals during UAE visit

During President Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey signed several deals totaling an estimated $50.7 billion. The agreements covered extradition, energy, natural resources development, space, and defense cooperation. Erdogan and UAE President Mohamed Bin Zayed attended the signing ceremony of the agreements.

As part of the deal, Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund ADQ committed to financing up to $8.5 billion of Turkey's earthquake relief bonds. Additionally, an MoU with the Export Credit Bank of Turkiye will enable ADQ to finance up to $3 billion in credit facilities to support Turkish exports.

Erdogan emphasized that the joint agreement would elevate relations between the two countries to the level of strategic partnership. The visit to Abu Dhabi marked the end of Erdogan's Gulf tour, aimed at boosting Turkey's economy, which has been facing challenges such as a weakened lira, high deficits, and chronic inflation. The tour also included stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Erdogan urges immediate recognition of Turkish Cyprus

President Erdogan once again called on the international community to recognize the existence of Turkish Cyprus and abandon the idea of a federal resolution for the ongoing dispute on the island. 

During a ceremony on July 20, marking the 49th anniversary of Turkey's military operation on the island, Erdogan emphasized the importance of acknowledging Turkish Cyprus and seeking a just and viable resolution. He also expressed that a federal resolution is not feasible and urged for negotiations to recognize the sovereign equality and equal international status of the Turkish Cypriots.

Turkish President also inaugurated the new terminal building and runway at Ercan Airport in Turkish Cyprus. President Erdogan arrived at the new airport after his Gulf tour, and his plane performed the first landing on July 20.

Netanyahu's historic visit to Turkey after 14 years to be rescheduled after pacemaker operation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to visit Turkey next week to meet with Turkish President Erdogan. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu was admitted to Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv on July 22 for a pacemaker procedure after a heart monitor detected a "temporary arrhythmia." The 73-year-old leader's doctors said the pacemaker fitting went smoothly, and he is expected to be discharged on July 23. 

The hospitalization comes amidst tens of thousands of people protesting in Jerusalem against a planned overhaul of the Supreme Court currently being debated in Parliament. Netanyahu's office stated that his planned trips to Cyrus and Turkey would be rescheduled.

Netanyahu's visit to Turkey will mark the first meeting between the leaders in 14 years, indicating an improvement in their strained relationship since the Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla incident in 2010. The meeting aims to improve cooperation and address international and regional issues. 

On the other side, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will pay a visit to Turkey on July 26 to discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict developments and other matters.

UK to begin talks with Turkey for new free trade deal

On July 18, Britain announced its intention to start talks with Turkey to update their existing bilateral free trade agreement. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said the existing free trade agreement with Turkey, which was rolled over when Britain left the European Union, is now considered outdated. 

The negotiations for the new deal are expected to begin next year. The trading relationship between the two countries was worth £23.5 billion ($30.7 billion) last year. The new FTA aims to deepen the UK-Turkey trading relationship in the fields of goods, services, digital, and data. 

Italian police seize 5.3 tonnes of cocaine destined for Turkey 

Italian police seized a record 5.3-tonne cocaine shipment being transferred between ships off the coast of Sicily on July 21. The authorities reported that the cocaine was destined for Turkey after unloading its cargo. 

The consignment's estimated value is around 850 million euros ($946 million), and five people have been arrested in connection with the operation. "The ship named 'Plutus' likely sailed from South America, possibly from Venezuela or Trinidad, with 15 crew members, including Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Ukrainian nationals," Colonel Gianluca Angelini told BBC Turkish.