by instituDE, published on 4 September 2023


"A New Episode in Turkey's Censorship Regime" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy

Turkey's tightening censorship regime continues to challenge its relations with the western countries. The Turkish authorities, last week, gave 72 hours for Voice of America (VOA) and Deutsche Welle (DW) to register as an internet broadcaster. Otherwise, they will either stop their activities or their administrative boards will face imprisonment in Turkey. Washington and Ankara want to configure their relationship on a transactional basis, but as Turkey's authoritarian practices deepen, Turkey's authoritarian drift continues to be a challenge for Turkish-American relations.

The US reaction is so far restrained. According to VOA, a State Department official said that they are concerned about the decision. But if the Turkish government implements the procedure, it will be a new test for the Turkish-American relations after both sides caught a positive vibe after the latest NATO Summit in Vilnius.

Last year, the government passed a new regulation to tighten its control over digital media platforms. Broadcast ban is a common practice that Turkish courts use to censor any news that harms President Erdogan's or his government's interests. Although the Turkish government is capable of preventing access to platforms like YouTube and Twitter, it harms Ankara's image and its relations with the EU and the US. Thus, instead of closing these platforms, with the new regulation, the Turkish government aims to establish more discreet pressure on the digital media to remove 'undesirable content.'

"Can Erdogan turn his back on Putin?" by Ali Dincer, Turkish Minute

The plane crash also made many people reminisce about a 2018 video of Putin opening up to a reporter about how betrayal is the one thing he is unable to forgive. Betrayal is also the word he used to describe the Wagner insurrection two months ago. 

This brings us to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Picasso of the art of betrayal. Since his re-election back in May, some of his actions led commentators to wonder whether he is planning to abandon his close ties with Putin in favor of a more pro-Western alignment. 

In July, Ankara handed over to Kyiv five former Mariupol commanders who were supposed to remain in Turkey under a prisoner exchange deal and softened its stance on Sweden's NATO accession.

First off, Erdogan's Swedish about-face looks less like a pro-Atlantic epiphany and more like his way of caving in response to the leaking of a US-Swedish joint corruption probe that implicates his son. An expert blackmailer himself, Erdogan presumably recognized the blackmail he was faced with and backed down without getting anything in return.

Secondly and more importantly, Erdogan and Putin are simply too beholden to each other to walk away from their relationship. It's also a Mexican standoff. The two autocrats hold cards that can turn into doomsday weapons when the chips are down.

To be clear, Erdogan and Putin's relationship is far from being problem-free, as evidenced by the recent Ukraine-related souring. Yet, the fact remains that they stand to lose too much if they choose to get a divorce. Unless the war in Ukraine somehow polarizes the world to the extent that makes it impossible for Erdogan to keep playing his double game, reason dictates that they keep the marriage through thick and thin, until death do them part.

"After Turkey's giant rate hike, foreign investors mull return" by Nevzat Devranoglu and Karin Strohecker, Reuters

Turkey's latest massive interest rate hike has caught the attention of long-sceptical foreign investors who say they could return to Turkish assets if authorities continue to demonstrate that a return to orthodox monetary policy is underway.

Turkey's top officials say that they plan to take two more vital steps to reverse a years-long exodus of foreign investment as well: they will publish a comprehensive economic programme next month that will reduce uncertainties; and they will begin holding meetings with investors abroad.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek will kick off the investor roadshow on Sept. 19 at Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York, Reuters reported on Friday.

Five foreign investors told Reuters that this week's rate hike signalled a new independence among policymakers who are serious about addressing unrelenting pressure on the currency and reining in inflation expectations.

Turkish stock, Eurobond and CDS markets are more attractive targets this year and next, especially after the rate hike, investors and officials say.

After meetings in New York and at the United Nations - which Erdogan is also expected to attend - Simsek listed plans for trips to London and an International Monetary Fund event in Morocco, as well as other meetings in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong by the end of the year.


Ankara Mayor Yavas announces re-election bid

Mansur Yavaş, the Mayor of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), declared his candidacy for re-election in the mayoral elections scheduled for March 31, 2024. 

Mayor Yavas announced this during the August 30 Victory Day Celebration event in Ankara, expressing his desire to serve for another five years. He emphasized the importance of fairness and justice in governance and asked for the public's support in the upcoming elections. 

Erdogan signals preparation for a new constitution

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has once again signaled that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) intends to draft a new constitution. 

During the Judicial Year Opening Ceremony at the Presidency of the Court of Cassation on September 1st, Erdogan stated that the AKP would restart efforts to create a new constitution with the opening of parliament in October. Erdogan invited various stakeholders, including political parties, high courts, universities, state institutions, bar associations, and citizens, to contribute to the process.


Turkey's economy grows by 3.8% in Q2 but expected to slow

Turkey's economy expanded by a higher-than-expected 3.8% in the second quarter, driven by strong household spending, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute data. However, economic activity is anticipated to slow down for the rest of the year as election-related stimulus fades and substantial interest rate hikes have an impact.

On a quarterly basis, gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 3.5%, surpassing forecasts. The annual measure, just below trend growth levels, was supported by a significant increase in household expenditure, partially due to currency depreciation in June and rising inflation, which encouraged consumption.

Economic growth was also boosted by fiscal stimulus before the May elections, which saw President Tayyip Erdogan extending his rule into a third decade. The central bank had previously lowered interest rates to prioritize growth, exports, and investment, which had also contributed to increased economic activity.

Finance Minister Simsek denies Central Bank intervention in FX rates

Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek has denied allegations of the Central Bank intervening in foreign exchange rates by selling its reserves. 

On the social media platform Twitter, Simsek stated that the Treasury and the Central Bank are actively working to enhance the attractiveness of Turkish Lira instruments. He emphasized that the claim of the Central Bank intervening in exchange rates to maintain a specific level is untrue.

Mandatory mediation for rent disputes begins

Starting September 1, a new requirement mandates parties to seek mediation before pursuing legal action in rental, neighborhood, and property ownership disputes. This move aims to reduce the caseload in courts, which has surged due to rising rental prices and disputes between landlords and tenants this year.

Applications for mediation will be free of charge at mediation offices located in courthouses. If both parties agree, the mediator will issue a legally binding decision. Mediation sessions will be completed within three weeks, with a possible one-week extension in exceptional cases.


Amedspor fans detained for not standing during national anthem

On August 27, during the Amedspor-Denizlispor match in Diyarbakır province, 11 Amedspor fans were detained for not standing during the singing of Turkey's national anthem. The police accused them of "insulting the signs of the state's sovereignty" and took them to the Diyarbakır Security Directorate.

On August 28, the prosecutor referred the Amedspor fans to the Criminal Judgeship of Peace on duty, requesting their release with judicial control measures. The court subsequently released the fans with judicial control measures.


Turkey and Saudi Arabia sign agreement in the field of mining 

Turkey and Saudi Arabia inked a memorandum of understanding aimed at enhancing cooperation in the mining field, Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar announced on August 28. "This agreement focuses on the joint exploration and mining of critical minerals not only within Turkey and Saudi Arabia but also in third-party nations," Bayraktar said. 

The memorandum was signed during the visit of Saudi Arabia's Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar Ibrahim Alkhorayef, to Turkey. Alkhorayef held meetings with various high-ranking Turkish officials, including Turkey's Trade Minister Omer Bolat.

Both countries expressed a shared interest in expanding their cooperation in green energy, Bayraktar added.

Putin and Erdogan to meet in Sochi to revive grain deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi to revive a Ukraine grain export deal that helped alleviate a global food crisis.

Russia withdrew from the deal in July, citing obstacles to its food and fertilizer exports and insufficient Ukrainian grain shipments to countries in need.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Erdogan's meeting with Putin in Sochi but provided no further details.

Before the high-level meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on August 31 and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on September 1 in Moscow to discuss the grain initiative. 

Lavrov stated that Putin supports all efforts by Turkey and the UN to revive the grain initiative, but the UN's new proposal currently lacks promises and guarantees. 

The two foreign ministers also discussed the agenda for the upcoming meeting between Erdogan and Putin on September 4 in Sochi. Furthermore, Lavrov mentioned that he and Fidan discussed the next steps in the Ankara-Damascus normalization process.

Defense Minister Shoigu asserted that Russia was not to blame for the deal's failure and stated that Moscow would consider returning to it if all promises made to Russia were fulfilled.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on August 30 Moscow's proposal for an alternative to the Black Sea grain deal. The plan involves Russia providing one million tons of grain to Turkey at a reduced price, with financial backing from Qatar. The grain would be processed in Turkey and then distributed to countries in critical need.

Israel explores gas pipeline to Turkey to diversify supply sources

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a comprehensive assessment of options to expand gas exports, with a notable proposal being the development of an underwater pipeline connecting Turkey to Israel's significant offshore gas field, Leviathan. 

This pipeline would serve as a conduit for transporting gas to Turkey and further to Southern European nations, aiming to reduce their dependency on Russian gas supplies. The envisioned project seeks to create a strategic link between the Turkish-European pipeline network and the abundant gas reserves found in Israel and neighboring regions like Egypt and the UAE. 

Swedish Foreign Minister optimistic about Turkey ratifying NATO bid in October

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom expressed optimism on September 1, stating that he still expects Turkey to ratify Sweden's NATO membership as agreed with Turkish President Erdogan during a NATO summit in July. 

After a meeting with visiting members of the US Congress, Billstrom mentioned that there have been no contrary signals during the summer and that the commitments made in Vilnius remain valid.

Turkish and Iranian Foreign Ministers hold talks in Tehran

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan held talks with his Iranian counterpart, Hussein Emir Abdullahiyan, in Tehran on September 3. They discussed various bilateral and international issues, emphasizing cooperation and the need to strengthen Turkey-Iran relations. 

The discussions covered bilateral ties, regional cooperation, and global developments. Both ministers also shared their perspectives on the current regional and global situations.