by instituDE, published on 9 October 2023


"Why is Turkey testing US red lines in Syria?",  Turkish Minute

On Oct. 5, an ANKA-S UCAV operated by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was shot down by a US F-16 fighter jet after it was deemed a potential threat to American forces when it came within 500 meters of a "restricted operating zone" (ROZ) near Hasakah, about one kilometer (less than a mile) from American troops.

A ground operation in northern Syria might be Turkey's strategy to foster nationalism. The government could use the excuse that the Turkish army is in Syria to ensure the security of Turkey and that the lack of economic stability is a result of this necessary action. Had the US not shot down the Turkish UCAV, the Erdoğan government would have taken it as a signal to proceed with the ground operation. However, the US made its red line clear by shooting down the UCAV. The Turkish Foreign Ministry statement — "During the operation, a UCAV was lost due to different technical assessments in the de-escalation mechanism operated with third parties. Necessary measures will be taken to ensure a more effective operation of the de-escalation mechanism with the relevant parties," — indicates that the Erdoğan administration has gotten the message about the US red line and will take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.

"Turkey's president picks a fight with the Council of Europe", The Economist

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluded that the conviction of Yuksel Yalcinkaya, an alleged plotter in an attempted coup in 2016, who was sentenced to six years in jail, had been "decisively" based on his use of a messaging app called Bylock. This, it said, constituted "systemic violations" of the right to a fair trial. The ECHR ordered Turkey to take measures to rectify the violations.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan increasingly views the court as an annoyance whose judgments can be disregarded. In his speech at the opening of parliament on October 1st, Mr. Erdogan described the Bylock judgment as "the straw that broke the camel's back". "We can neither respect the decisions of institutions aligned with terrorist organisations, nor listen to what they say."

For Turks, withdrawal from the convention and the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg court would remove their last means of redress in their sclerotic and unreliable legal system. It would also mark a definite end to Turkey's long-stalled candidacy for EU membership.

Mr. Erdogan has been trying to play nice with his European allies since his narrow election victory in May, in the hope of wooing back the foreign investors that have deserted Turkey in recent years. But at home he wins votes by pushing back against Western censure. With crucial local elections due next March, he may reckon that Turkey's council membership is worth sacrificing.

"Does Ankara attack mark strategy shift for Turkey's PKK?" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor

Turkey has squarely gained the upper hand in its 39-year-long fight against the PKK thanks to its domestically produced drones that have shot to global renown. Hundreds of PKK cadres have been killed in drone strikes in Iraq and Syria as Ankara seeks to eliminate the group's new crop of potential leaders. 

Historically, whenever the PKK inflicted high casualties on the Turkish military, the Turkish state reached out to the rebels in order to de-escalate.

But as Ilhami Isik, a Kurdish commentator who advised the government during the latest round of peace talks, noted, thanks to Turkey's increasingly sophisticated technology and spy network, conventional guerrilla tactics no longer have the same effect, leaving the PKK with few options other than urban attacks. These do not sit well with the bulk of Kurdish voters; the more civilians die, the more support for the rebels fades. And should Turkey be able to prove that any of the assailants crossed from Syria regardless of their affiliation, the harder it will become for Washington to maintain its public stance that the PKK and the YPG are different.


Turkish opposition leader calls for release of Gezi Park trial defendants

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), visited Gezi Park trial defendants at Silivri's Marmara Prison on October 6. After his visit, he called for their immediate release and criticized the Turkish judiciary for being influenced by the executive branch of government.

Kilicdaroglu met with human rights lawyer and Workers Party of Turkey (TİP) lawmaker Can Atalay, businessman and civil society leader Osman Kavala, and city planner Tayfun Kahraman.

Following the visit, Kilicdaroglu addressed the press and urged the Constitutional Court to expedite a decision on the Gezi Park trial convicts. He emphasized, "The Constitutional Court needs to decide as soon as possible. Atalay and the others should be released without delay." 

Last month, Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a life sentence for Kavala and 18-year prison sentences for other Gezi Park trial defendants.

Opposition party calls government and top court to align with ECtHR rulings

A spokesperson for the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) urged the Turkish government and the Constitutional Court to align with the rulings issued by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in accordance with international treaties Turkey has ratified.

On October 6, DEVA's spokesperson and lawyer, Idris Sahin, emphasized on his Twitter account that the Constitutional Court's primary role is safeguarding individuals' rights and freedoms against political authority.

Sahin stated that the Constitutional Court must reevaluate its decisions that conflict with the judgments of the Strasbourg-based court. Furthermore, he called for proactive measures to prevent similar rights violations in the future.

Erdogan unanimously re-elected as leader of ruling party

On October 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected as the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Erdogan, nominated by the party's top officials, received unanimous support and secured 1,399 votes during the party's 4th extraordinary congress in Ankara.


Consumer price inflation rises to 61.53% in September

In September, official data revealed that Turkish annual consumer price inflation reached 61.53%, marking the third consecutive monthly increase. On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose by 4.75%.

Meanwhile, the domestic producer price index for September showed a 3.40% month-on-month increase, resulting in an annual rise of 47.44%, as the Turkish Statistical Institute reported.

Turkish Central Bank Governor to meet international investors at IMF Forum

Turkish Central Bank Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan is set to meet with international investors for the first time since assuming her role. A source familiar with the plan told Reuters that these meetings will take place during the annual IMF forum in Marrakech, scheduled for October 11-13. Participants in these meetings will include representatives and clients from BlackRock, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and other central bankers.

World Bank upgrades Turkey's economic growth forecast to 4.2% for 2023

The World Bank raised its economic growth forecast for Turkey this year from the previous 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent. According to the bank's Europe and Central Asia Economic Update report, this increase is attributed to robust household consumption and reduced policy uncertainty.

The World Bank predicts that the Turkish economy will expand by 3.1 percent next year but has slightly lowered its estimates for 2025 to 3.9 percent, down from the previous projections of 4.3 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.


Freedom House Report: Turkey's internet freedom declines, remains 'not free' 

Turkey's internet freedom experienced a consistent decline over the past decade, with the country once again categorized as "not free" in terms of online freedoms, as per a recent report by the US-based nonprofit Freedom House.

The "2023 Freedom on the Net" report, published on October 4, evaluates internet freedom in 70 countries using a comprehensive approach that examines barriers to access, content restrictions, and violations of user rights.

Turkey scored 30 on a 100-point index, where lower scores indicate less freedom and higher scores represent more freedom. In the 2022 index, Turkey had a slightly better score of 32, which was again insufficient to prevent its classification as a "not free" country.

Turkish court sentences opposition TV chief editor to prison

On October 4, a Turkish court sentenced Merdan Yanardag, the chief editor of an opposition TV channel, to two years and six months in jail for spreading terrorist propaganda. However, the court ordered his release. 

Police detained Yanardag in June for criticizing the prison isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, during a television program, under charges of "praising criminals" and "spreading terrorist propaganda.


Turkey to resume operations on Iraq-Turkey crude oil pipeline this week

Turkey's Energy Minister, Alparslan Bayraktar, announced on October 2 that operations on the Iraq-Turkey crude oil pipeline, which had been suspended for about six months, will restart this week. During the ADIPEC conference in Abu Dhabi, Bayraktar stated, "We will begin operating the Iraq-Turkey pipeline within this week, allowing it to supply nearly half a million barrels to the global oil markets." 

The suspension of flows on Iraq's northern oil export route occurred due to an arbitration ruling by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which ordered Ankara to pay damages to Baghdad for unauthorized exports between 2014 and 2018.

US shoots down Turkish drone near its troops in Syria

On October 5, the United States announced that it shot down an armed Turkish drone near its forces in Syria. This incident marked the first time the US had taken down an aircraft from its NATO ally, Turkey. A Turkish defence ministry official said that the downed drone did not belong to the Turkish armed forces but did not specify its ownership.

Before the shootdown on October 4, Turkish air forces targeted 58 targets associated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq in response to their claim of responsibility for the bomb attack near government buildings in Ankara on October 1.

On the same day, Turkey claimed that the attackers came from Syria, which the Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the United States, denied. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan declared that any infrastructure and energy facilities controlled by the PKK and the YPG in Iraq and Syria were legitimate military targets.

Following the strikes in Iraq, Iraqi Defence Minister Thabet al-Abbasi visited Ankara on October 5 to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Yasar Guler.

According to Turkey's defence ministry, on October 5, Turkish military airstrikes destroyed 30 targets in northern Syria, including an oil well, storage facility, and shelters.

Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder also reported that Turkish drones conducted airstrikes near US troops in Hasakah, Syria, on October 5. A Turkish drone later approached US troops within a half-kilometer distance and was deemed a threat, leading to its downing by F-16 aircraft, General Ryder said.

On October 6, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed that the drone belonged to Turkey. The ministry also stated that this incident did not impact the ongoing military operation conducted by the Turkish military against Kurdish militant groups in the region.

On October 7, during overnight attacks, the Turkish Defense Ministry reported neutralizing 58 Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

Abu Dhabi's wealth fund explores railway project with Turkey

Abu Dhabi's ADQ wealth fund is having talks with Turkey to construct a railway across the Bosporus in Istanbul. This railway is part of a proposed trade route connecting Europe to the Middle East and Asia, posing competition to the US and European Union-supported IMEC project. Turkish officials familiar with the matter shared this information with Bloomberg on October 5, noting that the railway would traverse the Yavuz Sultan Selim suspension bridge.

This development comes after the recent announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) at the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 9. IMEC, facilitated by the United States, aims to link India with markets in the Middle East and Europe. China's Belt and Road Initiative is also working to enhance trade and connectivity across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Energy Minister plans to visit Israel for gas talks

On October 5, Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar announced his plan to visit Israel in November for discussions regarding the transportation of natural gas to Europe via Turkey, along with addressing domestic consumption.

Bayraktar mentioned that Turkey had recently entered agreements to supply natural gas to Romania and Moldova and received requests from other European nations, including Germany, for gas procurement.

Additionally, he stated that if Turkey couldn't reach an agreement with China to construct its third nuclear power plant, Ankara would need to explore alternative options.

Erdogan urges restraint amid escalating Israel-Palestine tensions

Turkish President Erdogan called for restraint from both Israel and the Palestinians and emphasized Turkey's opposition to any actions against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a significant religious site in Jerusalem. This statement came in response to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7. Hamas fighters initiated their attack at dawn by launching a large number of rockets into southern Israel. These attacks were followed by an unusual and simultaneous infiltration of fighters from Gaza into Israel.

In response to the Hamas attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that Israel is "at war."

Speaking at an AKP meeting in Ankara, Erdogan urged Israelis and Palestinians to avoid impulsive actions that could escalate tensions.

Turkish Foreign Ministry also called on the parties to act with restraint and avoid impulsive steps. "We are always ready to contribute to the best of our ability to ensure that these developments can be taken under control before they escalate further and spread to a wider area." the ministry said in a statement.