by instituDE, published on 7 August 2023


"US, Russia mum as Turkey escalates attacks against Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor

Turkey's military campaign against alleged Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in Syria and Iraq is continuing full blast. The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North and Northeast Syria on Sunday denounced Russia and the US-led Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State (IS) in a statement over their silence in the face of the attacks.

The United States and Russia are guarantors of separate cease-fire agreements struck in the wake of Turkey's 2019 Operation Peace Spring. Both wish to pull Turkey to their side as Russia's war on Ukraine rages on.

"Washington should consolidate a proactive, pro-peace position on Turkey, North and East Syria, and the Kurdish question before the next inevitable crisis occurs," Meghan Bodette, director of research at the Washington-based Kurdish Peace Institute, told Al-Monitor.

Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project indicates that there have been at least 665 Turkish airstrikes and drone strikes in northern Iraq and northern Syria in the first half of 2023. And as Bodette noted in a recent policy brief, the attacks have picked up since Turkey's parliamentary and presidential elections, which were held in May. "June was the most violent month of 2023 yet. It saw the fifth-highest number of Turkish strikes in Iraq and the fourth-highest number of Turkish strikes in Syria of any month in the past two and a half years," Bodette wrote.

"Iran, Israel, Turkey and the growing Baku-Erbil relationship" by Mehmet Alaca, Amwaj.media

A rare July summit between the leaders of Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan has drawn attention to their growing relations. Baku and Erbil will likely aim to strengthen their energy and security ties. But the relationship is driven mainly by international and regional dynamics. Turkey has been a catalyst for engagement, while shared concern over Iran has also pushed Azerbaijan and the Kurdistan region of Iraq closer to each other.

To Turkey, a new regional picture is emerging driven by a variety of dynamics. These include warming Turkish ties with Israel, as well as Tel Aviv's normalization with Gulf Arab states. There is also the apparent US apathy towards the region, fueling perceptions of an American withdrawal. 

Part of Turkey's desire to support the burgeoning relationship between Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan is its own regional competition with Iran. Ankara is strengthening its political and economic axes by bringing together regional capitals which experience tension with Tehran.

While Tehran is not likely to be comfortable with the expansion of relations between Baku and Erbil, these two actors alone do not pose an existential danger to Iranian interests. Nonetheless, the potential of Israeli and Turkish participation as third parties in a blossoming Azerbaijan-KRG relationship reinforces Iran's unease. If ties with Baku and Erbil are also viewed through the prism of competition with Ankara and Tel Aviv, Tehran could put pressure on the Azerbaijani-Kurdish relationship.

A clearer outline of how bilateral economic and security cooperation may look will likely become evident if, and when, Azerbaijan opens a mission in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. For now, Baku and Erbil are mainly adapting to regional trends, with Ankara supporting their engagement. As such, the advancement of the bilateral relationship will likely run parallel to Azerbaijan and Iraqi Kurdistan's ties with Turkey. At the same time, if common perceptions of the Islamic Republic as a threat continue, it will further draw Baku and Erbil closer to each other.

"Expanded UK-Turkey trade deal seen as win-win, could include services" by Jack Dutton, Al-Monitor

Since it left the European Union in January 2020, the United Kingdom has been trying to make the most of its divorce from its largest trading partner by forging deeper relationships with middle powers such as India, Singapore and Turkey. On July 18, Turkey and Britain announced that they had started discussing a new free trade deal. Officials from both countries met in Ankara that day to review the current free trade agreement and move toward renegotiating it.

Turkey's free trade deal was rolled over after Brexit and is limited in scope because it was designed to reciprocate the Turkey-EU customs union deal and therefore only applies to manufactured goods and some agricultural products. The agreement does not cover services, which account for 80% of the UK economy and more than 75% of Turkey's economy.

Sinan Ulgen, senior fellow at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, said services that will be likely appear in the agreement include old service industries such as finance, telecoms, energy and transportation as well as more modern digital services.

"There will need to be a comprehensive assessment of which of these areas are of offensive interest to the negotiating parties, Digital industries, finance would certainly be of commercial and offensive interest to the UK side," Ulgen told Al-Monitor. On the Turkish side these will be more tourism, contracting services, construction and transport, he added.

He also said that the new deal is likely to be ambitious and take three or four years to negotiate before it enters into force.

"Chasing the mirage of Turkey’s western orientation" by Sinan Ciddi, 19FortyFive

Following a decade-plus of fractured relations with key Western partners, Erdogan has made some moves to rebuild his relationships with Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. All of this suggests that Erdogan may have abandoned his toxic brand of foreign policy independence. Not many people in positions of authority are buying it, however — leaders are accustomed to Erdogan’s sharp U-turns. 

Erdogan behaves this way for now, because if he does not mend ties with the powers cited, Ankara will be isolated. How far Erdogan’s shaking of hands with regional leaders will go to actually rebuilding substantive, close ties with the countries in question can be no more than a guess. 

We should abandon the notion that Erdogan’s Turkey will anchor itself with the West. Leaders like Erdogan — and perhaps Viktor Orban of Hungary — have figured out that wholesale commitment to any cause or alliance pays low dividends. What pays more is leveraging one’s position inside entities such as NATO or the European Union. For now, it fits Erdogan to suit up as a team player. Turkey will hold its local and municipal elections in May 2024, and there is strong evidence to suggest that a strong economy will not be on offer as a winning message. Around the new year, I am waiting to see which country Erdogan will demonize, as he pivots back to emphasizing an “independent” foreign policy.


CHP initiates party program revision with member participation amid internal dissent

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), is taking significant steps to revamp its party program by involving 1.3 million members. The party aims to create a more concise and reader-friendly version of the existing 350-page program. 

Yunus Emre, the deputy chairman responsible for this task, stated that they would gather input from the members via SMS and consider expert opinions and international examples. The draft text will undergo thorough discussions before its finalization, Emre added. 

This move comes amid internal dissent within the party, with some members, including Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, calling for leadership changes.

Green Left Party and HDP set for party congresses

Turkey's opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and its ally, the Green Left Party (YSP), are gearing up for party congresses in August and September, respectively.

In light of potential closure risks, HDP will hold an extraordinary congress in August and transfer its organization to the YSP. While HDP's corporate identity and legal entity will remain intact, all political processes and organizational activities will be carried out under the YSP.

Following that, in September, the YSP will hold its congress, during which the party's name will change, and new co-chairs and council members will be elected.


Trillion Energy enters partnership to develop key oil field in Turkey's Kurdish Southeast

This week, Trillion Energy, a Canadian oil and gas producer headquartered in Calgary, revealed that it has entered into a "farm-in agreement" with a Turkish company. The agreement grants Trillion a 50% working and revenue interest in three oil exploration blocks in the Cudi Gabar region.

The Turkish government previously announced the discovery of around 1 billion barrels of oil in the Sirnak province, bordering Iraq, and valued the reserves in Cudi Gabar at $12 billion.

However, some industry experts remain skeptical about the actual potential of the oil reserves in the Cudi Gabar region. They argue that the claims need independent verification and that high production costs might pose challenges for Trillion Energy and a well-funded investor might be necessary for effective oil extraction.

Turkey's banking watchdog halts credit card installments for foreign travel expenses

In an effort to bolster financial stability, Turkey's banking watchdog, the BDDK, introduced two significant measures on July 31. Firstly, the watchdog ceased allowing credit card payments by installment for foreign travel expenses, including flights, travel agency fees, and accommodation. The decision is expected to impact foreign travel operators and curb foreign currency outflows.

Secondly, the BDDK announced an increase in the risk weightings considered for calculating capital adequacy standard ratios for consumer loans, personal credit cards, and vehicle loans.

These measures were introduced as coordinated steps to strengthen Turkey's financial stability and have already negatively affected airline shares following the restriction on credit card payments for foreign travel.

Turkey's annual inflation surges to 47.83% in July

In July, Turkey experienced significant annual inflation of 47.83%, with consumer prices rising by 9.49% from the previous month, according to official data released on August 3. The Turkish Statistical Institute reported a staggering 57.45% increase in annual inflation compared to the same period last year. This surge follows consecutive price and tax hikes, contributing to one of the country's worst-ever cost-of-living crises.

The official data highlighted transportation as the primary driver behind increasing consumer prices, rising by 17.75% compared to the previous month, mainly due to multiple fuel hikes. Healthcare costs saw the second-highest monthly increase, growing by nearly 13.61%, followed by an 11.92% upsurge in restaurant and hotel prices.

The finance and treasury minister, Mehmet Simsek, said the rise aligned with market expectations. In his tweet, Simsek focused on transitioning towards disinflation and price stability, with a commitment to tighten fiscal and monetary policies. He further assured that annual inflation is anticipated to start declining by mid-2024.

Turkey's new economic team meets with international investors

On August 4, Turkey's new economic team met face-to-face with over 40 international investors for the first time. During the eight-hour meeting in Istanbul, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek and Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan discussed monetary and fiscal policy and the economic outlook. The sources claimed they also pledged to continue raising interest rates, despite the slowdown in economic growth, to combat rising inflation. 

The two sources, who requested anonymity, said Simsek stressed that reducing inflation is a top priority, and he expressed confidence that policy is moving towards more normal settings.

Foreign investors show confidence in Turkish stocks with longest buying streak in a decade

Foreign investors show increased confidence in Turkey's economy as they continue buying Turkish stocks. Last week, overseas investors purchased $179 million in local equities, marking the eighth consecutive week of inflows. As reported by Bloomberg, this buying streak represents the longest run of net foreign direct investment since 2013. 

Despite the country's departure from its unorthodox economic policy of keeping interest rates low amid high inflation, investors seem optimistic about Turkey's economic prospects. Throughout this streak, total purchases amount to a net of $1.8 billion, and the benchmark Borsa Istanbul 100 Index has risen by an impressive 61% since the May elections.


Turkey's Constitutional court concludes over 400,000 cases, finding rights violations in 70,441 applications

Turkey's Constitutional Court (AYM) concluded 400,877 out of 520,000 cases from September 2012 to June 2023. In about 315,000 cases, the court ruled inadmissibility, while in 70,441 cases, at least one right was violated. The court found no violation of rights in 1,166 cases. 

In 2022, 50.4 percent of cases where rights were violated were decided, totaling 35,407. The most common violations were the right to be tried within a reasonable time, freedom of expression, violation of property rights, and the right to a fair trial. 

In 2022, the number of pending individual applications increased significantly to 67,297 cases. 

In the first half of 2023, the court received 21,305 applications and ruled violations in 8,172 cases.


Putin and Erdogan discuss resumption of grain deal ahead of Turkey visit

On August 2, during a phone call, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is willing to rejoin the Black Sea grain deal if the West fulfills its obligations regarding Russia's grain exports. 

Moscow had exited the deal the previous month, citing interference from the West that hindered Russia's grain and fertilizer exports. According to Moscow, payment restrictions, logistics, and insurance were causing shipment difficulties. 

The Kremlin stated that the lack of progress in implementing Russia's part of the 'grain deal' has rendered any further extension meaningless. 

According to Erdogan's office, during the phone call with Putin, Turkish President Erdogan highlighted the need to avoid actions that may hinder the revival of the Black Sea grain initiative and to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions amid the Russia-Ukraine war. 

Turkish presidency's statement added that both leaders agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Turkey, although no specific date was provided. A senior Turkish official said that discussions between Ankara and Moscow are underway, and the visit will likely take place in late August.

EU to discuss Turkey's visa exemption in fall

The European Union will discuss Turkey's visa exemption issue in the fall, according to a senior official from the bloc. Despite uncertain outcomes, the official said Turkey is still considered a candidate country and an important partner in various shared interests. 

The European Council has invited the bloc to prepare a critical report on Turkey-EU relations to advance ties, which will be discussed in the upcoming fall meetings. 

The official also emphasized the need to uphold fundamental freedoms and values outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights to reignite momentum in full membership negotiations.

Turkish drone strike targets and kills a PKK militant in northern Iraq

On August 6, a Turkish drone strike in Iraq's northern province of Sulaimaniya killed one PKK militant and injured another. The attack targeted the two PKK militants in their vehicle in the town of Chamchamal. 

In a separate incident on the same day in Erbil, unknown gunmen killed a Kurdish Peshmerga officer in his vehicle. Iraqi Kurdish security sources are currently investigating the incident.