18 November 2014 News Round-up


Re-start of the Peace Process, labour regulations on workplace safety and plans to regulate Syrian refugees’ work permits, fight against the ‘parallel state’ as well as re-surge of the Dersim massacre discussions occupied Turkish media this week. Turkey-US collaboration in the fight against ISIS and tension emerging from Turkey’s monitoring a Cypriot oil-and-gas exploration mission of the coast of Cyprus were on the high in foreign policy news. On the economic front, unemployment reached double digit levels while inflation showed no signs of easing.

[tabby title=”Domestic Politics”]

The Peace Process

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan met Members of the Democratic People’s Party (HDP) who had made visits to Imrali Prison where the leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), Ocalan, serves a life sentence. Akdogan stated that the peace process is a local process, signalling that the government does not want any international mediator as a third party to be involved in the talks between Kurds and the Turkish government. Both parties of the meeting announced that the peace process will be carried out despite the recent pause due to the crisis in Kobane and protests on 6 and 7 October 2014. Members of the HDP indicated that both the government and the Kurdish political movement should take steps simultaneously on a mutual understanding. President Erdogan, however, denied claims that the peace process is bounded by dialogue with Ocalan and the PKK. Erdogan asserted that the peace process is part of Turkey’s democratisation process and a national unity project.

Ocalan stated in a message delivered by the HDP Co-Chair Demirtas that he would call for demilitarisation of the PKK by April 2015 if the peace process carries out as expected with no further delays.

Religious Education

PM Ahmet Davutoglu has criticised the Republican People’s Party (CHP) for ‘fighting’ against religion. Davutoglu has reiterated the need to have religious education, something which, he claimed, might tackle radical tendencies, and he has further stated that he will personally confront the stigmatisation of any religion, including Christianity and even Buddhism.

Labour regulations

A new workplace safety regulation package has been announced by PM Davutoglu, which aims to limit workplace accidents in Turkey. Notably, the government will henceforth be rewarding those companies where no accidents occur, while fining those that have them. It also includes a number of new measures for mines, such as that they are now obliged to provide 3D maps of the mine, and that each step of the mining process must be saved electronically and transferred to the Ministry of Energy, who will monitor the process. This Davutoglu has stated there needs to be a balance on the part of the government between education, enforcement and inspection with regards to safety in the workplace.is in response to the various mining accidents that have recently struck Turkey.

The Dersim Massacre

The Dersim Massacre which resulted in the deaths of over 10,000 people and forced 12,000 to migrate in 1938 has occupied Turkey’s political agenda this week. PM Davutoglu, indicating that previous PM Erdogan did apologise for the massacre, has accused the CHP and the MPH for not having done so. Following to this, Sezgin Tanrikulu MP, Deputy Chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has apologised for the Dersim Massacre. Tanrikulu stated that the government’s apology is a rhetoric, with no promise of tangible actions for compensation. The apology, however, caused further controversy in the party, some members of the CHP has denounced Tanrikulu’s apology.

Outspoken CHP deputy from Ankara Emine Ülker Tarhan has resigned from the CHP to form a new party, to be called the Anatolia Party. Tarhan has frequently criticised the policies of her own CHP, calling them “weak”, “unorganised” and “hypocritical”, and expressing doubt that the CHP will ever be able to regain a majority in Parliament.

Fight against the ‘Parallel State’

Arrests and investigations into police officers allegedly connected with the illegal wiretapping of public officials continued on Wednesday, with a police chief and other high ranking police officials from Tekirdağ and Edirne provinces arrested on the orders of the Counter-terrorism and Organised Crimes Division of the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Criticism that the charges are politically motivated and are part of a “purge” of people suspected to be sympathetic to the Gülen movement was expressed, as well as claims that the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office had gone outside its jurisdiction in charging officers from other provinces.

Substantial changes to entry exams and regulations of the police academies, in order to block alleged followers of the Gulen movement, has been discussed by government circles.

Media outlets affiliated with the Gulen Movement have said that they have been barred from press conferences at the Presidential Palace.

[tabby title=”Foreign Policy “]

The Crisis in Iraq and Syria

Prime Minister Davutoğlu met US President Obama at the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia. Davutoglu claimed that US foreign policy is shifting and that the US might now realise the urgency of toppling al-Assad regime in Syria in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). Davutoglu, acknowledging that priorities of the US in the region focus on Iraq and the fight against ISIS more so than Assad regime, asserted that the US policy is shifting towards fight against both ISIS and Assad regime.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has stated that various countries across the EU are cracking down on PKK financing and recruitment operations, despite some observers having recently claimed that the PKK could be taken off the terrorist list due to its fight against ISIS.

Syrian refugees

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security has announced that it plans to provide temporary identification cards for Syrian refugees, as part of a plan to allow legal employment for some of the approximately 1.7 million refugees in Turkey. Labour and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik further stated that every workplace will have a 10% cap of how many Syrians it is allowed to employ, a move seen as hoping to prevent the exploitation of Syrians as cheap labour.

Cyprus and Turkey relations

The European Parliament has approved a resolution condemning Turkey’s maritime survey in what it considers to be the Cypriot special economic zone, calling on it to stop provocative action that could cause problems for the negotiations taking place in Cyprus and for Turkey’s relations with the EU. Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir, while stating that he respects the decision of the EU Parliament, has dismissed the resolution. Recent talks on the island have collapsed due to Turkey’s actions, while both Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots have opposed moves by the Republic of Cyprus to unilaterally explore energy sources off the coast of the island.

Greece has warned that it may take legal action against Turkey with regards to the warship that Ankara is planning to send to monitor a Cypriot oil-and-gas exploration mission of the coast of Cyprus, claiming that it violates international sea law.

A Greek ship has reportedly harassed a Turkish fishing vessel off the coast of Bodrum district. The Greek vessel left Turkish waters after the intervention of two Turkish battleships.

Members of the Turkey Youth Union (TGB) attacked American NATO soldiers stopping off in Istanbul after a NATO exercise in the Black Sea. The soldiers were attacked with dye and sacks forced over their heads, a symbolic act reminiscent of a 2003 US operation in Northern Iraq against Turkish soldiers stationed there, which saw US soldiers place sacks over the heads of Turkish soldiers. This attack has been condemned by both the US embassy and the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Both European and Turkish sources have reported that Turkey could scrap plans to buy a missile system from Chinese corporation CPMIEC (Chinese Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation), which has been sanctioned because of arms deals it has made with Iran and Syria despite sanctions.

[tabby title=”Economy”]

Speaking at the G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu emphasised Turkey’s support for pro-growth policies championed by the US and the UK, as contrasted with calls for more restrained and regulated financial activity proposed by a group of countries led by Germany. Turkey will act as the rotating “president” of the G20 until the 2015 G20 conference, which will be held in Antalya. Davutoğlu also used his time on stage to call attention to issues inside Turkey, notably the Syrian refugee issue, and to pledge a crackdown on corruption inside Turkey.

Meanwhile new figures have been released regarding the economy;

  • The unemployment rate in Turkey increased to 10.1% in August, the first time since February that the rate has increased, the Turkish Statistics Agency (TÜİK) announced.
  • Turkey’s current account deficit has been recorded at $2.224 billion, lower than economists’ expectations. This was caused by a decrease in foreign trade deficit, decrease in net income outflows, and an increase in service surplus.
  • Industrial production has increased 2.2% in September, not enough to stimulate higher growth of the Turkish economy overall
  • Inflation showed no signs of easing with consumer prices increasing at 8.89% and producer prices increasing at a rate of 10,1% year on year.

[tabby title=”On a different note”]

The Ankara Chamber of Architects has stated that the controversial new Presidential Palace located at the Ataturk Forest Farm in Ankara is already set to undergo expansion, with an additional 250 room presidential residence to be constructed next to the existing palace.

A journalist working for the national newspaper Yenigün in the Central Anatolian city of Yozgat was assaulted while leaving his house. The journalist, Evren Kurban, was beaten with iron rods by three men. Kurban was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries, and expressed his view that he was targeted because of critical articles he had written about Yozgat mayor Kazım Arslan (AKP). Kurban subsequently filed a criminal complaint against Arslan.

Turkey has been fined a total of 58,000 euros by the European Court of Human Rights for violation to the European Convention on Human Rights.


Photo credit: www.cnnturk.com