Ankara-Moscow relations
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Moscow has never viewed Turkey as its strategic ally, but instead calling Ankara a strategic partner when he was commenting on the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. “We have never considered Turkey as our strategic ally. It is a close partner, that partnership has strategic nature in many areas,” Lavrov told Russian media outlets on Oct. 14.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has told his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar that they are concerned about reports that Syrian rebels are sent to Nagorno-Karabakh to fight. “Reports on militants from terrorist organizations from the Middle East being transferred to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone are especially concerning for the Russian Defense Ministry,” Moscow said, adding that the concern was conveyed to Akar.
HDP deputy Garo Paylan has said that natural gas could've been provided to all residences free of charge with the money spent on S-400 missile defense systems that are currently "rotting in warehouses." Paylan asked whether an agreement was signed to purchase the second batch of S-400s and whether the installation is not completed over sanctions threats from Washington.
Turkey shows disregard towards Byzantine and Christian cultural heritage and fails to fulfil its promise to maintain free access to Hagia Sophia, Nikolay Balashov, an archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church, said, addressing Ankara's latest decision to convert the historic Chora church into a mosque. The archpriest added that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has fully lost influence "at home."
A Turkish military vehicle was hit by a blast on Aug. 17 during a joint Russian-Turkish patrol in northwest Syria's Idlib region. The Turkish Defense Ministry said that the attack on the 25th joint patrol caused a slight damage to one of the vehicles. Russia has repeatedly noted that the patrols are unsafe due to potential attacks by militants.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on July 30 the United States was continuing to evaluate how it would respond to Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. "We continue to evaluate how to apply sanctions in order to achieve our end objective," Pompeo said.
A roadside bomb planted by Syrian militants detonated near a joint Russian-Turkish patrol in northern Syria early on July 14, injuring three Russian soldiers, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The Russian statement said an unspecified number of Turkish troops were also hurt. Two sources said there were no Turkish casualties in the attack.
Turkey tested Russian-made S-400 air defense systems on U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets in November 2019, a source close to the Turkish defense industry told TASS on July 7. "Yes, such trials have indeed taken place last November," the source told TASS when asked to comment on several media reports.
Patriarch Kirill, the leader of Russia's Orthodox Church, said on July 6 that calls to convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque posed a threat to Christianity. "A threat against Hagia Sophia is a threat to all of Christian civilization, meaning [a threat to] our spirituality and history," Patriarch Kirill said in a statement.
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?
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.
Russia has said that Turkey cannot re-export Russian-made S-400 air defense missile systems without Moscow's permission. The statement came after U.S. Senator John Thune prepared a proposal to buy the S-400s from Turkey in a bid to overcome the impasse between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s participation in a program to produce F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation fighter jets.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov has said that Turkey has the right to vie for a new agreement on an additional supply of S-400 missile defense systems and Russia will subsequently be ready to deliver. "They [Turkey] have the right to do so, if they express a desire, we will seal [the deal]," Borisov said.
An explosion has hit the Turkey-Russia joint patrol in Syria's Idlib and no injuries were reported, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on June 16. . As a result of the explosion on the route of the convoy, one Russian armored personnel carrier has received minor damage," TASS cited the spokesman as saying.
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.
Editor's Picks
duvar englis podcasts
Ankara's conflict-oriented foreign policy has received the public's support for military operations, but public opinion often fails to translate into votes. While Ankara's "enemy" in military conflict is ever-changing, the northern Syria conflict was revealed to be the only intervention that expanded the government's voter base.
Selahattin Demirtaş writes: You have re-arrested us after six years. You say we are the instigators of the Kobane massacres when we were actually the victims. Do you think you will be able to make us responsible for this through conspiracies based on secret witnesses and be saved from responsibility? You must genuinely believe that the fascism you rely on today will always exist.
Politics
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's salary has been raised by 8.3 percent to a total of 88,000 Turkish Liras, as part of a budget proposal submitted by the ruling AKP government to parliament. Erdoğan's new salary will be effective as of January 2021. Earlier in October, Erdoğan had urged the believers of Islam to have “patience” in the face of financial problems.
Some 32 deputies in parliament failed to take the stand except to take an oath, daily BirGün reported on Oct. 21. A total of 27 of said deputies were members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), receiving more than 500,000 liras in annual salaries when combined.
The trial into the murder of prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi started on Oct. 21, amid further obstacles to securing an effective investigation into the killing. None of the three defendant police officers attended the hearing in person in the courtroom, but instead appeared via the video system. Elçi family's lawyers said that this is against the normal procedure and the case was being handled in a “negligent” and “impartial” way.
Turkish police have seized 879 animal and plant fossils worth $10 million from two houses owned by Islamic televangelist cult leader Adnan Oktar. Officials said the fossils would be delivered to a museum in Ankara.
The Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court has rejected exiled journalist Can Dündar's appeal against the seizure of his assets. The court has said that it has found the 14th High Criminal Court's Oct. 7-dated decision “in accordance with procedure and law.”
In a parliamentary question addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, HDP lawmaker Ali Kenanoğlu has asked what kind of legal proceedings the ministry has run against the assailants of 36 publicly known hate crime incidents that were committed against Alevis in the last eight years. Kenanoğlu's inquiry came after unidentified assailants on Oct. 20 painted threatening messages on an Istanbul apartment building housing Alevis.
Turkey said it would not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request were made by Baku. "There is already a military cooperation agreement between Turkey and Azerbaijan. If there is a need and Azerbaijan makes such a request, then Turkey would do it openly [provide military support]," Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Oct. 21.
Unidentified assailants have stabbed a 14-year-old Syrian child to death in Turkey's Central Anatolian province of Konya. Vail El-Mansur was on his way to the tailor shop he was working at when he was murdered brutally.
Turkish authorities seized 220 kilograms of cocaine on a ship that arrived at a port in the country's southern coast from Brazil. Police in the coastal province of Mersin found the cocaine hidden in a container carrying packages of paper.
Istanbul University's Cerrahpaşa Medical School has been observing twice as many patients, the dean said on Oct. 20. Turkey's official numbers receded to early May levels on the same day, observing some 2,026 diagnoses. "There's almost a doubling of the number of cases and patients seeking help in Cerrahpaşa. The winter might be rough for all of us," the dean said.
Turkey will send some 110,000 tons of grains and flour to countries in need, primarily Syria, a presidential decree in the Official Gazette said on Oct. 21. While the grains will be handed out by Ankara's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent, any wages related to the operation will be taken out of the Treasury's budget as well.
During a recession that has dealt a deep blow to agricultural producers across Turkey, potato farmers are struggling to get by while retailers purchase produce cheap and sell at high prices to consumers. "I don't like the AKP anymore,” said one 70-year-old farmer, who has grown potatoes in Niğde for 45 years.
A controversial social media legislation has enabled the Turkish government to swiftly block access to scores of news reports from critical newspapers and websites within the past month. "What we are facing is a heavy censorship mechanism,” cyber-rights expert Yaman Akdeniz told the daily Cumhuriyet.
The death of Serkan Tumay in a prison raised concerns on the prison conditions in Turkey once again. While Tumay's family says that he was tortured by prison guards repeatedly and died as a result in Kırıkkale F-Type Prison, opposition deputies Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Gülizar Biçer Karaca asked Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül to explain how he died.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty of violating the right to free speech of Prof. Baskın Oran and Prof. İbrahim Kaboğlu, who faced prosecution in 2005 for publishing a report on the country's minorities. The ECHR said that the legal proceedings against the two academics had “inevitably created pressure" on them leading to “self-censorship.”
The Coalition for Women in Journalism has launched a petition demanding that Turkey immediately drop charges against journalist Ayşegül Doğan, who prosecutors accuse of "being a member of an armed organization." "Today, Ayşegül Doğan has become the target of the government due to her journalism, which touches on social issues such as the struggle for peace, women's struggle and labor," read the petition.
Five years later after the killing of Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elçi, the case still remains unsolved, amid claims that the Turkish intelligence service's neglect played a role in the murder. Diyarbakır Bar Association and Tahir Elçi Human Rights Foundation have criticized the indictment in the murder case, saying that the inclusion of an alleged PKK member as a suspect in the case is inconsistent and is an attempt to divert the attention from the real perpetrators.
A HDP lawmaker has submitted two separate parliamentary questions inquiring about the whereabouts of Bahtiyar Fırat who went missing on Oct. 14 amid concerns that he might have been abducted by state agents. MP Sait Dede asked Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulahmit Gül if they will issue a statement with regards to the fate of Fırat considering that 17,000 people have been so far victims of enforced disappearances while under detention in Turkey.
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on Oct. 20 filed a lawsuit against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a U.S. court, accusing the kingdom’s de facto ruler of ordering the journalist's killing.
Economy
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that income per capita in Turkey would drop to 2005 levels, an annual average of $7,720. The IMF also predicted a five percent contraction in the Turkish economy until the end of 2020, despite Ankara's 0.3 percent growth projection.
Turkey's net international investment deficit grew by $20 billion from the end of 2019 to reach a total $365.8 billion at the end of August. Turkey's international assets shrunk by 10.2 percent to reach $227.4 billion in the same period.
President Erdoğan on Oct. 17 announced the discovery of an additional 85 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea, following a similar find in August. As a result of testing, analysis and detailed engineering work, another 85 billion cubic meters were added to the reserves we had discovered. The total amount of natural gas reserves in the TUNA-1 well of the Sakarya Gas Field reached 405 billion cubic meters," Erdoğan said.
Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed a dip in real estate sales vis-a-vis last year in September, dropping by 6.9 percent for some 136,744 residences sold. Meanwhile, the total volume of sales between January and September was larger than the number in 2019.
Urban Beat
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.