by instituDE, published on 26 February 2024


"Amid pressure on its Qatari ally, will Turkey host Hamas leaders?" by Ali Bakir and Nesibe Hicret Battaloglu, Amwaj.media

Questions have emerged about whether Turkey—a close ally of Qatar and a country that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas—would host leaders from Gaza at a certain point. The aim of such a step could be to share the political burden faced by Doha, and to secure Turkey's own interests.

Within Turkey, there is currently no consensus on whether to host Hamas leaders. On the one hand, Amwaj.media has learned, some mid-level officials argue that it could lead to significant pressure from Israel and its supporters in the diplomatic, political, media and potentially economic realms. Nonetheless, they do not completely dismiss the idea—if higher-ranking officials were to make such a decision.

Other Turkish officials believe that hosting Hamas representatives could have advantages. They argue that it may change the current dynamics, boost Ankara's diplomatic and security reputation, and empower Turkey in shaping a resolution to the Gaza war in a way that serves its interests and potentially diminishes the impacts of other regional actors which are perceived as unconstructive.

A third view in Turkey holds that hosting Hamas representatives is currently unnecessary. They point out that Ankara has not received an official request on the matter. Proponents of this perspective also argue that there is no immediate need for Turkey to step forward as it has already positioned itself conveniently through its current level of involvement with Hamas.

In conclusion, while Turkey has demonstrated a propensity to engage with Hamas and assert its influence on the Palestinian question, a decision to permanently host Hamas leaders is far from straightforward. It will likely be influenced by a confluence of internal considerations in Palestine and Turkey as well as regional dynamics and international stances, making it a topic to watch closely.

"Turkey's new ambassador to Washington takes on a challenging task" by Bunyamin Tekin, Turkish Minute

With the appointment of Sedat Onal, a seasoned diplomat with more than three decades of experience, as Turkey's new ambassador to the United States, Ankara is signaling its intention to improve its troubled relations with Washington, which will be no easy task.

Mustafa Enes Esen, a former Turkish diplomat and researcher at the Brussels Institute for Diplomacy and Economics (InstituDE), emphasized the importance of Onal's appointment given the current dynamics of US-Turkey relations.

"The role of the ambassador in Washington is critical to how Ankara is perceived and understood in the U.S.," Esen said. "Given the complexity of the bilateral relationship, Ambassador Onal's ability to maneuver will largely depend on the evolving context of that relationship, which presents him with a formidable challenge."

The choice of Onal, a career diplomat, instead of a political appointee for this important position is seen by some analysts as a positive move.

As Onal prepares to assume his new duties, the focus will be on his ability to navigate the complicated web of issues that has tested relations between Turkey and the U.S.

"Strongmen Find New Ways to Abuse Interpol, Despite Years of Fixes" by Jane Bradley, The New York Times

For years, strongmen and autocrats had a novel weapon in their hunt for political enemies. They used Interpol, the world's largest police organization, to reach across borders and grab them — even in democracies.

In response, Interpol has toughened oversight of its arrest alerts, known as red notices, making it harder than ever to misuse them. But as Interpol adapted, so did strongmen. They have turned to the agency's lesser-known systems to pursue dissidents, a New York Times investigation has found.

Belarus and Turkey, for example, have turned Interpol's database of lost and stolen passports into a weapon to harass dissidents or strand them abroad. Abuse of this important antiterrorism tool got so bad that Interpol temporarily blocked Turkey from using it.

Neutrality is an Interpol cornerstone, but countries like Russia and China have used that to argue that the West should not dictate what red notices should be approved.

After years of denying problems, Interpol now has a team that reviews and approves red notices before they circulate.

But that is not universally popular, including among governments that will decide the election. Some, like Turkey and India, argue that the changes hamper police cooperation and that the West should not interfere with their affairs. In 2021, Turkey publicly criticized Interpol for refusing to publish 773 red notices against followers of Fethullah Gulen.


Main opposition decides to retain controversial mayor as candidate for local elections

The main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), decided to continue with its controversial mayoral candidate, Lütfü Savaş, despite criticism over his handling of the 2023 earthquakes in Hatay province.

The decision was announced in a party statement on February 20, following discussions between CHP leader Özgür Özel, party officials, and Savaş. Özel stated that they opted to keep Savaş based on opinion survey results in the province and lengthy consultations with party members.

Erdogan calls for judicial reform following dissatisfaction with court rulings

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed dissatisfaction with recent rulings from the country's highest courts and indicated his intention to pursue constitutional reforms to address what he views as conflicts within the judiciary.

During an appointment ceremony for judges and prosecutors at the presidential palace on February 20, Erdoğan outlined his vision for judicial reform, emphasizing the need to resolve conflicts with the high judiciary through constitutional amendments. He also called for parliamentary consensus to address the country's requirement for a new constitution.

Erdoğan's criticism stemmed from decisions by the Council of State and the Constitutional Court that contradicted the government's positions.

Imamoglu leads in polls ahead of local elections

Ahead of the March 31 local elections, recent surveys from six pollsters indicate that incumbent mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) holds a lead over Murat Kurum, a former environment minister and current lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

While the results vary slightly among the surveys, five out of the six polls show Imamoglu in the lead. Di-En Research shows Imamoglu at 43.8 percent compared to Kurum's 38.2 percent, while Yoneylem gives Imamoglu a lead of 39.1 percent over Kurum's 32.9 percent. However, one of ORC Research's polls suggests a closer race, with Kurum slightly ahead at 37.7 percent compared to Imamoglu's 36.5 percent.

Kurum's image has recently been negatively affected by public criticism following a landslide at a gold mine in Erzincan province.

Banner criticizing trade with Israel quickly removed during Erdogan's rally

During President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's speech at a rally in western Sakarya province on Feb. 24, a banner reading "End the shame of trade with Israel" was quickly taken down. Individuals, likely police officers, swiftly approached and removed the banner as soon as it was unfurled.

Groups advocating for the cessation of relations with Israel, due to their actions in Palestine, frequently organize protests against the Turkish government and companies that maintain trade relations with Israel.


"Turkish-Russian trade hit by fresh U.S. sanctions threat" by  Can Sezer, Nevzat Devranoglu and Dmitry Zhdannikov, Reuters

A U.S. threat to hit financial firms doing business with Russia with sanctions has chilled Turkish-Russian trade, disrupting or slowing some payments for both imported oil and Turkish exports, according to seven sources familiar with the matter.

The emerging payment issues are due to Turkish banks reviewing business and tightening compliance with Russian clients, four of the sources said. They have not disrupted Turkey's crude supplies, delaying only a small number of cargoes, two oil industry sources said.

A source with a Russian oil major said Russian oil exporters have not received payments from Turkey for two to three weeks.

Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Friday that there were additional difficulties in foreign trade transactions related to settlements and logistics.

One Turkish banker said banks carry out "extremely meticulous" procedures regarding sanctions, with compliance departments closely examining all transactions.

Initial data showed Turkish exports to Russia fell 39% year-on-year to $631 million in January, having increased 16.9% last year to $10.9 billion. Imports from Russia fell 20.2% in January to $4 billion, having dropped 22.5% in 2023 to $45.6 billion.

Central Bank holds key interest rate steady at 45%

On February 22, Turkey's central bank announced it would keep its key interest rate unchanged at 45 percent. This decision, made by the newly appointed governor, Fatih Karahan, signals the conclusion of the bank's tightening cycle, which lasted for eight consecutive months of rate hikes.

The bank stated that it would maintain the current policy rate until there is a notable and consistent decrease in the ongoing trend of monthly inflation.

TUSIAD Chief Economist predicts higher inflation rate for 2024

Speaking at the "Turkish Economy in 2024" conference on February 23, Gizem Oztok Altinsac, Chief Economist of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), claimed that the Central Bank's inflation forecast of 36 percent for the end of 2024 is unlikely to be met due to strong domestic demand.

Altinsac predicted an inflation rate exceeding 73 percent, emphasizing that domestic demand will outstrip the Central Bank's projections. She highlighted the need for fiscal policies to better align with the Central Bank's actions, noting that a crucial opportunity was missed in the summer of 2023 by not implementing a stronger interest rate hike.

Altinsac also emphasized the importance of deeper and more detailed policies to address deficiencies in current economic strategies.

Turkey's first national combat aircraft completes its first flight

Turkey's first national combat aircraft, KAAN, reportedly successfully completed its inaugural flight on February 21, marking a significant milestone in the country's efforts to modernize its air force. TUSAS, Turkey's aerospace firm, shared a video showcasing the KAAN fighter jet taking off and landing at an air base in northern Ankara.

Haluk Gorgun, head of Turkey's Defence Industries Directorate (SSB), said on social media that the KAAN will provide Turkey with not only a fifth-generation fighter jet but also cutting-edge technologies owned by few other countries. Turkey plans to equip KAAN with domestically produced engines for serial production, scheduled to commence in 2028, Gorgun added.

In 2017, TUSAS partnered with Britain's BAE Systems to advance the next-generation fighter jet, with a deal valued at $125 million.


Kurdish politicians sentenced to more than 100 years in prison

A court in southeast Turkey delivered its verdict on February 21 in the trial of 15 local Kurdish politicians accused of terrorism, the daily Evrensel reported. The defendants, including former member of parliament Gülser Yıldırım, received prison sentences ranging from six years, three months to seven years, six months for their alleged membership in a terrorist organization.

Kurdish politicians were prosecuted for their involvement in parallel city councils organized by the Democratic Regions' Party (DBP) in 2014, which the court deemed as evidence of active participation in a terrorist organization.

Turkish police detain 67 people allegedly linked to Gulen Movement

On February 21, Turkish police detained 67 people over alleged ties to the faith-based group Gulen movement in operations conducted in 14 provinces. Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the detentions on social media. He said among those detained were people linked to the movement's alleged infiltration of the military and police, as well as those implicated during police interrogations and court proceedings.

The minister further revealed that since assuming office in June 2023, authorities have conducted 4,022 similar operations, resulting in the arrest of 6,045 alleged members of the movement.

Turkish authorities commonly use witness testimonies to identify and prosecute members of the Gulen movement.

Top court declines third ruling in case of jailed opposition politician

Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled not to issue a third ruling in the case of an imprisoned opposition politician who was stripped of his parliamentary status. The decision came after the lower courts failed to comply with the Constitutional Court's previous two rulings, which found violations of the politicians' rights. The lawyers representing the politician and the main opposition party had requested the court to declare the stripping of parliamentary status as "null and void."

Following a meeting on February 22, the court announced that it found no need to issue a ruling for the application or an additional petition filed by CHP. The decision was made by a majority vote of 10 to 4, with the reasoned decision to be announced later.

HRW Report exposes Turkey's alleged abductions of dissidents abroad

Human Rights Watch released a report titled "We Will Find You," focusing on the crackdown on citizens abroad by states, including Turkey. HRW described the 46-page report as "a human rights analysis of how governments target dissidents, activists, and political opponents abroad."

The report said the Turkish government openly stated its pursuit of Turkish nationals abroad allegedly affiliated with the movement led by US-based Sunni Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

"In a televised interview in 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag stated that Turkey's intelligence service had abducted 80 Turkish nationals from 18 countries for their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Turkey's official Anatolian Agency news agency also regularly published information about individuals whom the Turkish National Intelligence Agency had brought back to Turkey and detained pending trial." the report added.

The report explained that Selahaddin Gulen, the nephew of Fethullah Gulen, was taken to Turkey from Kenya in May 2021 through an MIT operation. Additionally, Orhan Inandi, accused of having links to the Gulen movement, was kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan the same month and appeared in custody in Ankara a week later.

The report further mentioned, "Human Rights Watch is aware of several cases in which Turkish authorities abducted Turkish nationals and transferred them to Turkey, bypassing legal processes and court orders abroad."


Turkey allegedly revokes citizenship of Muslim Brotherhood leader following Egypt visit

Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya claimed that Turkey revoked the citizenship of Mahmoud Hussein, the Muslim Brotherhood leader of the Istanbul faction, following President Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Egypt. During his recent visit to Egypt, Erdoğan met with Abdel Fattah Sisi and conveyed a message of 'cooperation' following their discussions.

Sources informed Al Arabiya that Hussein sold his apartment in Istanbul and was in discussions with Turkish authorities to either extend his residency or relocate to another country. The sources stated that Hussein discovered his passport had been invalidated, and Turkish authorities had not provided an explanation for the decision.

Amid accusations that Erdogan has favored improving ties with Egypt over backing the Muslim Brotherhood, journalist Onur Erkan reported that Erdogan held a meeting with a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and assured the Brotherhood leaders that the normalization of relations with Egypt would not harm them.

According to Erkan's report, Turkish authorities explained the revocation of citizenship for Mahmoud Hussein and other Brotherhood leaders, who had gained Turkish citizenship through property purchases, as a procedural mistake.

However, it seems unlikely for a senior Brotherhood leader to be affected by such an error. Despite this, the Brotherhood leaders have lodged appeals, and the legal process is ongoing.

Turkish authorities detain 6 people suspected of monitoring Uyghurs for China

On February 20, state-run TRT reported that Turkish authorities detained six people suspected of spying on Uyghurs in Turkey for China's intelligence service. The police are currently pursuing another suspect.

Prosecutors in Istanbul have reportedly identified seven people believed to be collecting information on prominent members of the Uyghur community and associated organizations in Turkey.

Turkish and Russian foreign ministers discuss humanitarian situation in Gaza, Ukraine conflict

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the humanitarian situation in Gaza on February 22, along with potential actions to address it at the G20 meeting in Rio de Janeiro, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

The source said Fidan also expressed hope for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine conflict involving all parties, emphasizing Turkey's support for initiatives aimed at maintaining regional stability and prosperity. The source added that the two ministers discussed upcoming high-level visits.

Biden administration imposes new restrictions on foreign entities for supporting Russia

On February 23, the Biden administration announced new trade restrictions on 93 entities from Russia, China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, India, and South Korea for their alleged support of Russia's war effort in Ukraine.

The move, coming just a day before the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, effectively prohibits shipments from the U.S. to the targeted entities. Among the entities affected, 63 are from Russia, 16 are from Turkey, eight are from China, and four are from the UAE.