"Turkish foreign policy in trouble: From Iran to Sweden’s NATO bid" by Murat Yetkin, Yetkin Report
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has already told in his speech to Turkish Grand National Assembly last week that the 2024 will be difficult for Turkey. To the existing problems in foreign policy, Iran may have been added to the troubles he addressed.
On his return from the joint summit of Islamic countries in Riyadh on November 11, President Erdoğan said that Iranian President Ibrahim Reisi would visit Turkey on November 28 and that they would discuss what could be done together on the Gaza crisis. However, Reisi did not come on November 28. Neither Tehran nor Ankara made an official statement on his absence.
The statement issued by the Communications Directorate on the Erdogan-Reisi phone call does not say why the visit did not take place, only that it will be discussed at the High Level Cooperation meeting to be held soon in Turkey.
Fidan had gone to the NATO meeting to emphasize Gaza, but Sweden came to the fore. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström even claimed that Fidan had ensured him that Sweden’s membership would be approved by the Turkish Parliament “within weeks”. According to official sources, who spoke anonymously, Fidan said it was “at the discretion of the Parliament”. I wonder if he gave his own estimate on the timeframe, there is no information on that.
Turkey’s efforts to persuade Germany to buy Eurofighter Typhoon fighters, jointly produced by Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy and Italy (in order to fill NATO’s southern flank deficit), are not on the table at the moment due to the Israel-Hamas polemic with German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz in Berlin on November 17, in which he also brought the Holocaust into the hurdle.
The Gaza crisis, Sweden’s membership in NATO and the purchase of fighter jets for Turkey’s defense are tied in knots. If Fidan cannot untie the knot, it will take an Alexander to cut it.
"10 Things to Know About Hamas and Turkey", The Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Hamas receives significant funding, materiel, and political support from Turkey. For decades, Turkey and Israel enjoyed a productive partnership. However, since 2009, President Erdogan has diminished relations between the two countries while increasing support to Hamas. Most recently, Erdogan’s public support for Hamas’s October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians has terminated Turkey-Israel diplomatic associations.
1. Turkey does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization
2. Turkey provides Hamas a safe haven
3. Previously, Turkey and Israel shared a strong partnership
4. Turkey-Israel relations deteriorated under Erdogan
5. Turkey supports Hamas leaders by providing intelligence, Turkish passports
6. Turkey supports Hamas financially
7. Turkey supports Hamas militarily
8. Erdogan’s political views align with Hamas
9. Erdogan refused to condemn Hamas after October 7
10. Turkey is coordinating its response to the Hamas-Israel war with Iran, Hamas’s primary patron
“European fund giant Amundi dips toe back into Turkey's lira" by Marc Jones, Reuters
Amundi, Europe's largest asset manager and among the top 10 in the world, has started dipping its toe back into the Turkish lira having been impressed by the country's turnaround efforts since its mid-year elections.
The Paris-based firm, which has $2 trillion worth of assets under management, is yet to go all in given the lira's ongoing grind lower but says it has taken its first step towards it by reversing long-held bets against the currency.
"We have started to cover our underweight in Turkish lira a few weeks ago," Sergei Strigo, Amundi's co-Head of Emerging Markets Fixed Income, told Reuters, referring to the process of taking a more positive view on the currency.
"We are not yet ready to increase the allocation but it is definitely on our radar screen."
Having seen international appetite for investing in Turkey shredded by the near 85% plunge in the lira's value over the last five years, more positive moves by heavyweight firms like Amundi will be seen as a signal of hope.
Amundi, while the first major fund to formally declare its shift, is not alone in testing the waters, according to other foreign investors and bankers.
Investment bank JPMorgan has recommended the FX forwards trade in recent weeks and both it and rival Goldman Sachs are aggressively pitching Turkish government bonds with durations of 1-10 years, according to some investors.
Amundi's tentative optimism is balanced by upcoming nationwide local elections in March, when vote-getting fiscal stimulus could distract Erdogan from his newfound policy path.
Next year could be the time to start buying local currency debt he added, but "local elections have historically been the event when the fiscal (stance) needs to be loosened up to get the necessary votes.
"Lawyer abducted by Turkish intel talks about his experience in new documentary", Stockholm Center for Freedom
Mustafa Ozben, a lawyer who was missing for 92 days in Turkey and later revealed to have been abducted by the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), explains what he went through in a new documentary premiering on December 2, the Bold Medya news website reported on Wednesday.
Titled “92 Days in Pitch Black,” the movie was filmed in a former Gestapo prison in western Germany as part of a documentary series launched by the Tenkil Museum, an initiative dedicated to documenting the individual tragedies of Turkey’s post-coup purges after 2016.
In the documentary Ozben talks about the 92 days he spent being interrogated under torture at the hands of MİT and what happened afterward.
Reported missing in Ankara in May 2017, Ozben had disappeared after dropping his daughter at school. Family members located his abandoned car and found eyewitnesses who reported that they saw a man being pushed into a van by three men, one of whom was wearing a black ski mask.
Ozben is one of the few dozen people who were reported missing in the aftermath of a failed military coup in July 2016. The alleged abductees were typically people under investigation, on trial or convicted of alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, and they sometimes later resurfaced in police custody or in court hearings as witnesses denouncing other members of the movement.
Some victims, such as former Defense Ministry employee Yusuf Bilge Tunc, who was reported missing in August 2019, remain unaccounted for.
The alleged abductions were seen by human rights groups as the return to the country of enforced disappearances, a practice that in the 1980s and 1990s wreaked havoc in the predominantly Kurdish east and southeast with the disappearance in police custody of hundreds of civilians.
LEADERS ON THE MOVE
MHP leader accuses Ozel of 'attack on state integrity'
Turkish government ally and far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli criticized opposition parties on Nov. 28, particularly targeting the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Ozgur Ozel. Bahceli called Ozel's remarks an "attack on the unity and integrity of the state, a criminal offense."
Bahceli specifically criticized Ozel's statement, "Everyone is equal in Turkey, but Kurds are less equal," calling it a reflection of separatist and terrorist rhetoric. Bahceli deemed this claim a disgrace and an attack on the state's indivisible integrity, labeling it a criminal offense. In his speech, Bahceli also advised the CHP chair to welcome or join the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), linking the two parties.
Tenfold increase in Turkish citizenship grants for 'exceptional merit' under former minister Soylu raises questions
During the term of former interior minister Suleyman Soylu, the number of Turkish citizenships granted for "exceptional merit" was reportedly 10 times higher than the total granted in the 84 years preceding his tenure, according to T24 journalist Tolga Sardan. This type of naturalization, authorized by the interior minister, doesn't require meeting standard citizenship criteria but requires final approval from the president.
In an article on December 1, journalist Sardan refrained from disclosing specific numbers, suggesting that the Ministry of Interior should officially announce them. Sardan highlighted the significance of the substantial increase in the number of granted citizenships during Soylu's seven-year term compared to the preceding 84 years.
"Turkey’s political parties gear up for 2024 local elections", Turkish Minutes
As Turkey approaches the local elections set for March 31, 2024, Turkey’s political parties are intensifying their strategic maneuvers.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have been finalizing their joint approach.
Amid speculation of a crisis within the People’s Alliance following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s proposal to amend the 50+1 percent requirement for presidential elections, which was opposed by MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, Erdogan clarified that discussions with the MHP are continuing based on mutual understanding. This clarification came during Erdogan’s address at the AKP parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday.
The local election strategies of the People’s Alliance involve both the AKP and the MHP first working within their respective parties before starting discussions on joint strategies. Key strategies include securing the control of municipal councils in major cities like Ankara and İstanbul. There was speculation of a possible rift within the alliance; however, the meeting between Erdogan and Bahceli on Wednesday, where they reportedly discussed candidate choices for Ankara and İstanbul, indicates a continued partnership, dispelling notions of significant discord within the alliance.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), under newly elected leader Ozgur Ozel, is exploring alliances, particularly with the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party.
Ozel and Aksener’s meeting on Thursday aimed to discuss potential collaboration in major cities like Ankara and İstanbul for the local elections. Their previous partnership in the 2019 local elections, which played a crucial role in winning these cities, serves as a backdrop to this dialogue.
Aksener said she is willing to reconsider the İYİ Party’s decision to run independently in every province and to discuss Ozel’s proposal for collaboration.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democratic Party (HEDEP) renamed after the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) faced prospects of closure by the country’s top court, plans a significant strategy shift. Contrary to their approach in 2019, they intend to field candidates in major cities, potentially dividing the opposition vote.
Turkey's economy expands by 5.9% in Q3, driven by household spending
Turkey's economy grew by 5.9% in the third quarter, primarily fueled by household spending. However, the growth is expected to slow down due to aggressive monetary tightening aimed at curbing domestic demand and high inflation. Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute on November 30 revealed a 0.3% growth from the previous quarter on a seasonally and calendar-adjusted basis, marking a notable sequential decline.
The construction and industrial sectors experienced 8.1% and 5.7% growth, respectively, while the agriculture sector saw more modest growth at 0.3%, reflecting the impact and reconstruction efforts following this year's destructive earthquakes in the southeast.
Turkey's exports rise by 7.4% in October, trade deficit shrinks by 17.5%
According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute and the Ministry of Trade on November 29, exports in Turkey in October 2023 reached $22.87 billion, marking a 7.4% increase, while imports totalled $29.39 billion, showing a 0.6% increase compared to October 2022. For the January-October 2023 period, exports amounted to $209.9 billion, rising by 0.2%, and imports were $303.8 billion, indicating a 1.1% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
The foreign trade deficit for October 2023 decreased by 17.5%, reaching $6.52 billion. The export coverage of imports in October 2023 was 77.8%, an improvement from 72.9% in October 2022. However, the foreign trade deficit for January-October 2023 increased by 3.2%, totalling $93.92 billion, with exports covering imports at 69.1%, slightly lower than the 69.7% recorded in January-October 2022.
S&P upgrades Turkey's sovereign credit outlook to positive
On November 30, S&P Global Ratings revised Turkey's sovereign credit outlook to positive from stable, affirming its rating at "B." This move outside the regular ratings calendar was influenced by policy adjustments, including a recent 10 percentage point hike in the central bank's benchmark rate to 40%. S&P also cited positive factors like the monthly current account surplus in September and the recovery in usable reserves in November.
The Turkish central bank's net international reserves reached $35.81 billion in the week to November 24, the highest since March 2020.
The next scheduled review for Turkey by S&P is set for 2024.
Turkish competition authority launches investigation into 19 pharmaceutical companies
On November 30, Turkey's competition authority announced an investigation into 19 pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Bausch & Lomb, Sanofi, and Pfizer, to investigate potential violations of competition law. The authority launched the investigation on November 9, but no specific details were provided in the statement.
Court orders dismissal of Turkish Medical Association Board
A Turkish court in Ankara ordered the dismissal of the executive board of Turkey's leading doctors association, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB). This decision comes a year after the association's chairwoman, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, was arrested for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda. Fincanci was convicted in January 2023, sentenced to two years, eight months, and 15 days in prison, and released pending appeal.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the dismissal of the TTB Central Council by the Ankara 31st Civil Court of First Instance, citing activities beyond their intended purpose. The court ordered the removal of the executive board members and appointed trustees to oversee a transition until new elections are held for the executive body and a new chair.
The decision will be sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals for review, and if upheld, appointed trustees will replace the elected management of the TTB.
Erdogan urges UN chief to hold Israel accountable for Gaza 'war crimes'
On November 28, Turkish President Erdogan said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Israel should face accountability in international courts for what he termed as war crimes committed in Gaza, as per a statement from the Turkish presidency. In a phone call before a planned U.N. Security Council meeting on Gaza, Erdogan and Guterres discussed international expectations regarding Israel's actions, the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and efforts for a lasting peace.
The Turkish presidency's statement quoted Erdogan stating that Israel continues to violate international law, laws of war, and international humanitarian law, and it must be held accountable for the crimes it committed before the international community.
Erdogan reiterated these remarks during his formal speech at the COP28 conference on December 1, emphasizing that the situation in Gaza constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. He also stressed the need for those responsible to be held accountable under international law.
EU recommends incentives for improved relations with Turkey
On November 29, the EU's executive committee recommended offering Turkey a set of incentives to strengthen relations. This proposal is contingent on Turkey cooperating with the EU on Russian sanctions and making progress in the Cyprus talks.
The European Commission's joint communication with the European Council underscored Turkey's significance as a partner for the EU. The report acknowledged past challenges, including tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and the Cyprus issues, while recognizing Turkey's recent more constructive approach.
The report also highlighted the evolving geopolitical landscape, considering Turkey's role in the Black Sea, NATO, and the conflict in Ukraine.
Turkey freezes assets of organizations and individuals allegedly tied to PKK
On November 29, Turkey announced the freezing of local assets belonging to 20 organizations and 62 individuals based in Australia, Japan, and various European countries, alleging ties with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The decision, published in the Official Gazette, was made by Turkey's Ministry of Treasury and Finance, citing "reasonable grounds" for their involvement in acts falling within the scope of the law on preventing the financing of terrorism.
The list includes organizations from Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Japan, and other countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Iraq-Syria.
US Treasury official expresses concerns over Hamas fundraising in Turkey
On November 30, the top official for terrorism financing at the U.S. Treasury expressed deep concerns about Hamas raising funds in Turkey and the potential violation of local laws. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson stated that Turkey plays a significant role in Hamas fundraising schemes, and there are worries that Hamas might exploit this connection for additional funds amid its conflict with Israel. Nelson, who discussed these concerns with Turkish government officials, emphasized the need for Turkey to address the issue within its domestic legal framework regardless of U.S. sanctions.
Nelson also hinted at the possibility of more U.S. sanctions on Turkish entities suspected of aiding Russia in evading sanctions by facilitating the transit of critical components, such as chips and semiconductors, used in its conflict in Ukraine. Nelson highlighted a six-fold increase in the transit of these components to Russia through Turkey in the last 18-24 months, expressing concerns about Russian ships and planes being serviced in Turkish ports and airports.
NATO Secretary-General urges Turkey to facilitate Sweden's membership
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that he has urged Turkey's president to facilitate Sweden's membership in the military alliance. Stoltenberg shared that he delivered this message during a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on December 1 on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai. While unable to specify an exact completion date for the ratification process, Stoltenberg said he welcomed that Erdogan had recently submitted the ratification papers to the Turkish Parliament.
Erdogan expresses hope for new era in Turkey-Greece relations ahead of visit
On December 2, before his scheduled visit to Greece on December 7, Turkish President Erdogan expressed optimism for a fresh start in bilateral relations with Greece.
Speaking to journalists on his return flight from the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, Erdogan said, "I hope that a new era [between the two countries] will begin. We are trying to make more friends and fewer enemies." He emphasized a win-win approach for discussions during the visit, focusing on bilateral and Turkey's relations with the EU.