Diplomacy
Turkish President Erdoğan and Libya's GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj met in the capital Ankara on June 4. In a news conference, Erdoğan said both countries plan to advance cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, including exploration and drilling activities.
Prime Minister of the Netherlands said that travelers returning from Turkey would be placed under quarantine for 15 days, and urged citizens to avoid traveling to the country if possible. Turkey remains on an "orange list" of countries to be avoided if possible, potentially hurting an otherwise frugal touristic relationship between the states.
Turkey's Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has claimed that the left-wing Antifa movement is "cooperating" with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Altun's comment came after U.S. President Donald Trump said that he would declare the Antifa movement a terrorist organization over its role at protests and riots in the country.
Germany is talking to Ankara about reviewing travel restrictions with Turkey but is waiting for a European Union recommendation before taking any decisions, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on June 3. "We see that Turkey is making great efforts, but I can't give a forecast on how and when a decision will be taken," he added.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on June 2 announced that it is launching investigations into digital services taxes that have been adopted or are under consideration in a host of trading partners to determine whether they are discriminatory and burden U.S. commerce. The investigations will examine taxes that have been adopted in Austria, India, Indonesia, Italy and Turkey.
Murat Yetkin writes: January 2020 was a turning point in terms of Turkish-Italian relations. It would soon become clear that this wasn’t limited to diplomatic relations. We now learned that the two countries were conducting a joint intelligence operation amid the COVID-19 epidemic. Nevertheless, the most evident aspect, at the time, had to do with diplomacy.
Turkey's National Security Council, chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said that the country will continue providing “military consultancy" to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya.
The head of the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, said that Moscow is awaiting Ankara's final decision on the delivery of the second batch of Russia's S-400 missile defense systems. "Dialogue on the deliveries of the second regimental batch of the S-400 are on quite an advanced stage, and we await the final decision of the Turkish side," he said.
The presidential communications director of Turkey, which is the country that ranks near bottom of various press freedom indexes and is the world's biggest jailer of journalists, condemned the wounding of TRT World journalists by police in the United States and urged press freedom. "Press freedom is the backbone of democracy," Fahrettin Altun tweeted late on June 1. "I will raise this issue with the relevant U.S. officials without delay," he also said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Berlin was considering lifting travel bans to Turkey if the course of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn't worsen and sufficient preventative measures are implemented. The decision will also depend on the preventative measures in beaches and hotels, as Germany is among Turkey's top tourist importer.
United Nations investigators have revealed a short-lived secret mission in Libya that aimed to prevent shipments of Turkish-supplied weapons from reaching the government in Tripoli by sea. According to the U.N., the plan was to create a marine strike force using speedboats and attack helicopters that would board and search merchant ships.
Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın has said that Ankara is loyal to its agreement with Russia on the S-400 missile defense systems, adding that there were delays because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. "We're loyal to our agreement on S-400s just like we were previously," Kalın said in an interview on May 26, adding that Turkey is open to negotiations with the United States if it agrees to send Patriot missiles.
An aircraft belonging to Israeli airline El Al landed in Istanbul on May 24 for the first time in 10 years following a severe diplomatic spat between the two countries. According to the Israeli Embassy in Turkey, El Al will carry out flights between the two countries, which will "contribute to the trade between them in reaching record levels."
President Erdoğan has reiterated Turkey's support for Palestine, saying that the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is a red line for all Muslims. "I would like to reiterate that al-Quds Al-Sharif, the holy site of three religions and our first kiblah, is a red line for all Muslims worldwide," Erdoğan said. "We will not allow the Palestinian lands to be offered to anyone else," he added.
Six members of Congress, including Ilhan Omar, penned a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the government to engage with Ankara to secure the release of political prisoners in Turkey, requesting that the U.S. government discuss the equitable application of release policies, particularly in the context of U.S. financial or other material assistance to Turkey.
Editor's Picks
Musa Özuğurlu writes: Russia, by any means, wishes to see al-Assad in power at least for another term. It is trying quite unattainable formulas to make it possible for Muslim Brotherhood to return to Damascus after so many years. Let us see whether or not these attempts will bring the political transition and thus relief to Syria?
duvar englis podcasts
In this edition of Turkey: The Long View, Duvar English columnist Luke Frostick is joined by the president of P.E.N. Turkey, an international organization dedicated to protecting the rights of writers around the world.
Politics
Germany will keep reviewing travel advice for Turkey, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on July 2, saying any decisions were coordinated with the EU and based on reliable data on infections and the health situation. Earlier, Turkey said that it is disappointed by the European Union's decision to exclude it from the list of countries recommended for non-essential travel.
Turkey's flagship carrier is planning to cut pilots' wages in half, lowering other paychecks and possibly restructure their payment scheme, a union representative told Bloomberg. Turkish Airlines paused commercial flights for about three months during the pandemic.
Turkey is remembering victims of the Sivas Massacre, which took place when a large group of radical Islamists set the Madımak Hotel in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas on fire on July 2, 1993, killing 33 intellectuals and two hotel personnel, on 27th anniversary. Also on July 2, a parliamentary inquiry to reveal the perpetrators of the Sivas Massacre was rejected by lawmakers of the AKP, MHP and the İYİ Party.
A Turkish court on July 2 heard a case about converting Istanbul's sixth century Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and will announce its verdict within 15 days, a lawyer said, on an issue which has drawn international expressions of concern. Greece said Turkey risked opening up "a huge emotional chasm" with Christian countries if it pressed ahead with the proposal to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.
Turkey has carried out the largest anti-narcotics operation in its history, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on June 30, adding that it was conducted in cooperation with nine countries. "Traffic worth 500 million liras was prevented. It was the biggest operation in Turkey's history in terms of preventing income from drugs and crime," Soylu said.
Austria pledged on June 29 to find out who was behind clashes between Kurdish and Turkish protesters in the Austrian capital last week. "Austria's ambassador to Ankara will be invited to our ministry and informed of our concern," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said, accusing Austrian security forces of meting out "harsh" treatment to the Turkish protesters.
Turkey shut down a total of 119 media outlets following the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, Vice President Fuat Oktay said in response to a parliamentary question submitted by Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Muazzez Orhan. A total of 53 newspapers, 20 magazines, 16 TV channels, 24 radio stations and six news agencies were shut down with state of emergency decrees.
A lawyer from Van Bar Association Migration and Asylum Commission said that the death toll in the migrant boat accident in Lake Van is unknown. "Unfortunately we don't have enough information about the boat that sank in Van Lake over the weekend. The Van Bar Association hasn't received a public defender request for the boat yet."
Turkish authorities arrested one person and detained 11 others for insulting Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak's family through their social media posts, state-run Anadolu Agency said on July 1. The suspects face charges of "insulting a public official," the agency said.
The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has called on citizens of Turkish descent not to visit Turkey unless it is "mandatory," saying holidays or family visits are not essential. "Going to a country on the orange list is irresponsible and is an anti-social behavior," Nieuwenhuizen said. Netherlands’ coronavirus travel advice for Turkey currently stands at ‘orange’: travel only if absolutely essential.
The Turkish Competition Authority has launched a probe into German automotive giants Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The authority's announcement on July 1 came as Volkswagen AG canceled plans to build a car factory in Turkey after the coronavirus pandemic jolted auto markets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his counterparts from Turkey and Iran on July 1 that there was a need for peaceful dialogue between the opposing forces in Syrian war. "An inclusive inter-Syrian dialogue should be actively promoted within the framework of the constitutional committee in Geneva. I propose to support this process, to help the participants to meet and start a direct dialogue," Putin said.
Turkey's media watchdog issued a five-day blackout to two news broadcasters that are critical of the government. Both broadcasters will lose their licenses if they receive another broadcast interruption fine.
Turkish Deputy Parliament Speaker and main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Levent Gök broke a world record on running the longest uninterrupted session in a national parliament with eight hours and 13 minutes.
Turkey's ambassador to France İsmail Hakkı Musa said on July 1 that Paris had informed NATO it was suspending its involvement in a naval operation in the Mediterranean after a probe into an incident between French and Turkish warships did not back Paris' claims. "I had the information yesterday, it seems that the Courbet is withdrawing from this NATO exercise," he said.
The wife of an inmate diagnosed with cancer and coronavirus has urged the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to release her husband. "This means he has been abandoned to die. I am calling upon the public, the Presidency, and the Ministry of Health: Release my husband right away. There are thousands of [coronavirus] patients in jail, their voices must be heard. People are coming face to face with death at the moment,” she said.
A new testing center in Istanbul Airport will offer all passengers COVID-19 tests for 110 Turkish Liras each (about $16). The center's capacity is an hourly 2,000.
Professor Haluk Savaş who was known for his resistance against Ankara's state of emergency decrees died on June 30. Savaş had been removed from his post at a university with a state of emergency decree and was refused a passport to travel abroad for cancer treatment.
Germany's Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that it was unconstitutional for police to remove posters of the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) that Left Party deputy Michel Brandt hung in his office prior to a visit to the Bundestag by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2018.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed off on a new university because of a mistake in an executive order, which then got published in the official gazette. The gazette published a correction the next day, saying the correct word was "faculty" and not "university."
The United States will continue working with Turkish companies producing some parts of F-35 fighter jets until 2022, Turkey's state-owned Anadolu agency quoted a Pentagon spokeswoman as saying on July 1. "Our industry partners will carry out the continuing contracts," she said, adding the Pentagon was still looking for alternatives to Turkey.
Economy
Positive developments in COVID-19 vaccine studies have stopped the steady increase in gold prices. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said on July 1 that their vaccines were effective in increasing recipients' antibodies.
New regulation concerning online and digital banking services will ban bank representatives from asking about users' ID information to confirm their identities. Representatives will instead be asking about digital ID informations and PIN numbers.
Turkey's Trade Ministry legalized 18 installments for touristic spending to incentivize consumers. The new legal installment limit will be applicable to travel agencies, airlines and hotels.
Broadly defined unemployment in Turkey has reached 39 percent according to the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK). The union disputed recently revealed official unemployment rate of 13.2 percent. DİSK claimed that only those looking for a job for a period of four weeks as unemployed were reflected in the official numbers.
Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has announced that the Central Bank will provide a credit of up to 400 million Turkish liras ($59 million) with a maximum maturity of 10 years to companies which support exports and reduce imports.
Urban Beat
The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) likened railroads and highways in Turkey's capital Ankara to arteries in an eagle-eye shot of the city at night, dubbed "photo of the day" on June 28.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu on June 25 announced that the municipality purchased a portrait of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II at a London auction. According to the London-based world-famous Christie's auction house, the municipality's winning bid amounted to £770,000 ($955,000) for the oil painting, which is believed to be the work of Italian painter Gentile Bellini in 1480.
Turkey's Culture and Tourism Ministry will be turning the iconic Galata Tower into a museum. The ministry will also launch a "culture route" that spans from the tower, along Istiklal Avenue and to Taksim Square. Minister Ersoy also said that the construction of the AKM would be completed within a month, ongoing since February 2019.
Turkey's first mass event after the COVID-19 pandemic brought together 50 ambassadors and their families, press and businessmen together in Mediterranean Antalya's Aspendos Theater. The concert was performed by Turkey's seven tenors, accompanied by the Antalya Opera and Ballet's orchestra.
Istanbul's 28th LGBTI+ Pride week started on June 22 with a week-long schedule, entirely planned online. After having been banned for the past five years, the Pride march will also be carried out digitally this year. The theme of the Pride week is "Where am I?" focusing on safe spaces for queers during the COVID-19 pandemic and immigration.