PM Davutoglu’s new Economic Transformation Program, the continued battle to reach miners underground, heightened calls for the continuation of the peace process with the Kurds, and the risks emerging from the Syrian conflict have dominated Turkey’s media agenda this week. Environmental concerns occupied mainstream news outlets due to cut down of more than 5000 olive trees in Yirca village in western Turkey by an energy firm to build a coal plant on olive groves.
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Turkey commemorated the 76th anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Erdogan, in a statement made for the occasion, said that Ataturk worked to place Turkey at the level of contemporary civilisations as well as defend national sovereignty, and that Turkey remain on this path to reach its modern goal in 2023 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic.
Syrian Refugees and the Peace Process with the Kurds
Antalya municipality has barred illegal Syrian refugees from entering the city in order to prevent a refugee flow to one of the country’s major tourism centres. The Police Chief Cemil Tonbul added that the municipality asked to be exempted from the government decree that confers a number of rights on all Syrian refugees, including access to education and health, together with work permits. Tonbul stated that they have asked refugees in Antalya to leave the city in 2 weeks and that they will not accept any Syrian refugee, unless they have come by legal means. He added that ones that do not respect this regulation will be driven out of the city and taken to the closest refugee camp.
A large number of Turkish intellectuals have launched “Forward with Peace”, a campaign aimed at supporting and pushing forward the reconciliation process with the Kurds. This campaign is calling for greater civil involvement, and for the process to not be limited to the political sphere.
Turkish forces have intercepted weapons bound for the PKK-affiliate Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, sent from PKK camps in Northern Iraq.
Five activists died in an attack by Turkish military. They were member of the Free Art Initiative and they were attempting to form a human chain in Turkey’s border town of Suruc.
AKP and the Gulen Movement
The government has announced that it will reform the Police in order to weed out members of the Gulen Movement. Measures will include increasing the number of high ranking personnel within the police force, decreasing the number of the higher ranks, and introducing early retirement for police officers. The government accuses the Gulen Movement of infiltrating state institutions across the board, and of cheating in the police entry exams.
It has been announced that a new party formed by deputies with ties to the Gulen movement, who parted ways with ruling AK party in late December, will be called the “Democratic Development Party”. Independent Deputy Idris Bal has submitted a petition to the Interior Ministry for the establishment of this party. However, the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary chairman is Fethullah Gulen, have dismissed claims that the Gulen movement is forming a party, stating that it is impossible for a movement with millions of volunteers whose views range across the political spectrum to form a political party.
A new operation launched by the Kocaeli Police Department aimed at weeding out officers linked to the Gulen movement has led to the arrest of 17 officers.
Women’s and Workers’ Rights
Bianet revealed in a report that male violence in Turkey left 28 women/teenager girls killed, 10 raped, 35 injured and 6 sexually harassed in October 2014.
235 women has been killed, 88 raped, 499 battered and 75 sexually harassed in 2014.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2014 Turkey ranked 125th out of 142 countries. The country had a 5.7 percent improvement on its overall scores since the report was first published in 2006. Turkey is moving slowly to improve gender policies and reduce the gender gap.
Search efforts for the 18 miners trapped inside the mine in the Ermenek district yielded with the finding of two dead worker bodies on Thursday night.
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The Conflict in Syria
PM Ahmet Davutoglu has warned that if the city of Aleppo fall to the hands of Bashar al-Assad, Turkey would face a dire refugee crisis. Turkey is currently home to around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. His statements came amid calls by Turkey for the international alliance to broaden their approach and also focus their attention on the Assad regime, a call which has been echoed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Turkey has reiterated the need for establishment of a buffer zone, accompanied by a no-fly zone, within Syrian territory, an approach also favoured by the French, but which will require a UN Security Council resolution in order to be implemented.
France and Turkey have agreed to exchange intelligence information about suspects travelling into and out of Syria, after a meeting of the EU G6 Interior ministers, which was also attended by Turkish, Canadian and US officials.
A Free Syrian Army commander has announced that the two car-bomb attacks on the Turkish-Syrian border, on 11 February 2013 and 20 February 2014, were carried out by pro-Assad spies within the ranks of the FSA. The 2013 attack led to the deaths of 14 people.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari undertook a two day visit in what is an attempt to improve relations between the two countries. Relations had soured under the regime of Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki. Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the visit marks the beginning of a new chapter in relations between the two countries, and that Turkey will support Iraq in its fight against ISIS. A memorandum was also signed abolishing visas for holders of diplomatic, service and special passports between both countries.
Relations with Israel and Palestine
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced that Israel’s assault on the Mavi Marmara in 2010, a Turkish flotilla manned by activists who sought to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza, and which led to the death of 9 activists, constitutes a war crime. The Israeli government apologised for the incident in March of this year, and, with Turkey, is seeking to reach a deal which will not only normalise relations, but is also purported to include compensation for the victims’ families.
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency is set to fund a residential project in the Gaza Strip, open seven water wells and distribute $2 million worth of financial assistance to Gaza families.
President Erdogan has criticised Israel’s violation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Old City Jerusalem, after a number of extreme right-wing settlers stormed the compound. The President has announced that he will be taking the appropriate measures at the UN.
Relations with Greece and Cyprus
The Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has accused Turkey of provocative actions, referring to the activities of a Turkish survey vessel operating within the Cypriot Economic Zone around an area with energy reserves. Ankara refuses to acknowledge such exploitation until the successful conclusion of the peace talks. These comments came during a summit in Cairo including the leaders of Greece and Egypt to discuss regional security.
The Turkish Navy has been given a new set of rules of engagement in the eastern Mediterranean. This comes amid growing tensions between Turkey and the Greek Cyprus-Greece alliance over the exploitation of natural resources in the area. Turkey has sent a seismic vessel which will carry out surveys until December 30.
President Erdogan paid a visit to Turkmenistan after being invited by Turkmen President Berdimuhamedow. The two held talks on various issues, including Afghanistan, and Erdogan was able to secure the release of a Turkish teacher who was held in custody by Turkmen authorities for beating a student.
Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard has stated that maintaining good relations with Turkey is more important than the Hedegaard case, referring to the release of the man suspected of shooting Lars Hedegaard, a Danish writer and outspoken critic of Islam.
A Turkish ship has been hijacked by pirates on its route from Cameroon to the Ivory Coast. Two of the sailors have been kidnapped, and the company that owns the ships has said that the pirates have asked for ransom.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced that the Turkish government is set to send a motion to Parliament on the deployment of troops to the Central African Republic as part of the EU peacekeeping force.
According to new information released, national income this year is expected to be $810 billion, with current account deficit at 5.7% of national income, a figure which represents a 2.2 point fall from last year, and a growth rate of 3%. That said, the Turkish economy has been unable to effectively respond to an appreciation of the dollar, which has risen by 16% to 2.16 liras. This has only resulted in a 5.5% growth in exports and a 4.2% decrease in imports, which points not only to exporter inertia but also to the fact that Turkey remains largely dependent on its imports. With regards to its exports, Turkey’s exports to the Middle East and North Africa have decreased in the period 2013-2014 (with the exception of Israel), while its exports to the EU and Switzerland have increased despite the recession.
PM Davutoglu has announced the first phase of the AKP’s Economic Transformation Program, which will have two more phases in the near future, with a total of nine packages and 25 structural reforms. This week’s announcement included nine programs for;
• Reducing import dependency
• Increasing trading of preferential technologies
• Improving technology and local manufacturing via public support
• Production via local energy
• Improving energy efficiency
• Improving the utilisation of water in agriculture
• Structural transformation in health industries
• Expanding healthcare tourism
• Improving logistics
Davutoglu has claimed that the programme aims to increase Turkey’s GDP to $1.3 trillion, and reiterated that it also included measures to develop the southeast of the country, according to the reconciliation process.
In line with these aims, the European Investment Bank, as a part of its InnovFin programme, has signed a 55 million Euros agreement to support research, development and innovation in Turkey. The agreement was signed with Turkish company Tofas. While InnovFin is only open to EU member states, an exception has been made for Turkey.
On the other side of the world, representatives of a number of Turkish organisations met with the Chinese Peace and Disarmament Association met to discuss the new Silk Road project and how the two countries could further cooperate in the future. Chinese representatives asked for easier visas and customs policies from Turkey, while the latter in turn requested clarification of China’s policy on Russia, Ukraine, Palestine and Syria. The Chinese delegation stated that it believed in the future of the relations between both countries.
In the Middle East, an Iraqi official has stated that Baghdad will demand that Turkey pay money which it has gained from the selling of oil by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which Iraq sees as illegal. Al-Jaafari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, has nevertheless said that this does not represent a risk to inter-state relations, and reiterated Iraq’s commitment to improved relations with Turkey.
Turkey and Iran have been involved in a crisis over fuel and transportation costs of Turkish trucks going through Iran. The countries have been increasing the fees for trucks going through their borders in October. Iran then increased the per litre charge on fuel in the trucks going through transit from 1 USD to 2 USD. This led to Turkey looking for alternative routes of to reach the Turkish republics such as through Georgia and Azerbaijan. It has also been announced that the sale of oil within Iran to Turkish trucks may be stopped altogether.
Meanwhile, as the amount of oil transported from Iraq to Turkey rises, so do smuggling incidents. Turkish police have launched an operation in Hatay province in order to put a stop to the smuggling of oil through that border province. Pipelines were destroyed and weapons confiscated.
Photo credit: www.baskahaber.org