Turkey: Turkey December Update


December 12, 2023: The main opposition party, the CHP (Republican People's Party), is accusing the Erdogan government of failing to confront foreign organized criminal groups. The CHP cites statistics showing the rise in foreign criminal gang activity since 2016. The CHP contends government authorities have reduced efforts to control illicit money flows (to include money laundering). In October 2021 the international Financial Action Task Force put Turkey on its "gray list" for failing to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Turkey was becoming a haven for “laundering” criminal assets. In November a senior CHP leader told the Turkish parliament that since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2003 foreign-currency inflows of “unknown origin” have totaled $76.7 billion. From 1984-2001 suspicious cash inflows totaled $1.7 billion. There has definitely been an increase in foreign criminal gang activity in Turkey. In summer 2023 the Interior Ministry began a campaign targeting organized crime, both Turkish gangsters and foreign gangs. According to reports, the Interior Ministry claimed that the Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Directorate of the General Directorate of Security had conducted around 400 operations in the anti-organized crime campaign. Provincial police also participated in the operations. So far security personnel have dismantled 38 “mafia-style” gangs and arrested around 2,900 gang members. Meanwhile, the Treasury and Finance Ministry continues to say that Turkey must get off the FATF “gray list” in order to attract legitimate foreign investment capital. (Austin Bay)

December 7, 2023: In Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with Turkish President Erdogan and signed a joint declaration to pursue good relations. They agreed to several cooperative measures designed to promote improved relations, including military confidence-building exercises, and increasing trade. Trade is a huge factor. The leaders intend to double bilateral trade in the next five years, from $5.4 billion a year to $10.8 billion. Greece will ease restrictions on Turkish citizens visiting Greece and a special visa program that would let Turkish tourists visit Greek islands near the Turkish coast. One report said that Greece and Turkey have agreed to build a new border bridge over the Evros River in Thrace. Mitsotakis and Erdogan also agreed to find ways to resolve Aegean Sea boundary issues and disputes over exploiting Aegean resources. Cyprus and Aegean air space? Those tough issues remain.

December 4, 2023: The government reported Turkish consumer prices rose by 62 percent year-to-year (November 2022 to November 2023). The central bank now estimates 2023’s annual inflation rate will be 65 percent.

December 2, 2023: Erdogan declared that any chance for peace in the Israel-Hamas war is lost due to the end of the humanitarian pause in Gaza operations. Erdogan blames Israel for a lost opportunity. Erdogan said Turkey favored a permanent ceasefire.

The Turkish military reported it had neutralized six Kurdish militants in Syria and two in Iraq.

December 1, 2023: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reported he told Erdogan that “the time has come” for Turkey to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO. Turkey has now delayed approval for over a year.

The Turkish Air Force struck 16 Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq. The targets included caves, bunkers, and storage facilities in Hakurk, Gara, Qandil and Metina. These are where PKK camps and storage sites are usually found.

November 29, 2023: Turkey announced that it intends to approve Sweden’s admission to NATO within weeks. Turkey had withheld approval of Sweden joining NATO because of accusations Sweden had granted asylum to Turkish Kurds wanted for crimes in Turkey. Sweden had long been neutral, but the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine changed that. With Sweden now in NATO the Baltic Sea is surrounded by NATO nations, with Russia holding a small bit of coastline around St Petersburg, which was Leningrad before 1991. This situation annoys Russia a great deal.

November 28, 2023: Turkey released from prison a Turkish citizen who was formerly employed by the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul. Metin Topuz served three years of an eight year and nine months sentence. He worked as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency liaison officer. A Turkish court convicted him of aiding Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen’s organization. Turkey considers Gulen’s group a terrorist organization. The government blames Gulen for orchestrating the 2016 attempted military coup. Gulen is based in the U.S. and the Americans refuse to extradite him to Turkey.

November 27, 2023: Turkey continues to sell to Russia goods and raw materials vital to Russia’s Ukraine war effort. Turkey has increased imports of key war materials and very likely sold them to Russia in violation of European and American sanctions. Turkey exported nearly $160 million in 45 high priority goods (raw materials and equipment) to Russia and five former Central Asian Soviet-era nations Uzbekistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan that continue to trade with Russia. The high priority items include communications-related equipment, computer microchips and specialized spare parts that are sanctioned by the U.S. and other Western nations. Turkey becomes a conduit, or an intermediate destination, for transferring sanctioned materials and products. Other NATO nations criticize Turkey for this misbehavior but have done little more than that.

November 23, 2023: The central bank has raised its key interest rate from 35 percent to 40 percent. The bank said the move was necessary to fight inflation.

November 22, 2023: The destruction wrought by the February 2023 earthquakes continue to be physical and political problems. An estimated 400,000 people are still living in temporary camps, sometimes called container camps because of the use of standard shipping containers for housing. Many of the quake refugees continue to live in tent cities. Rebuilding costs for the earthquake damage vary greatly. The minimum is around $60 billion. However, rising material costs and inflation push the figure 20 to 25 percent higher, to about $75 billion.

November 21, 2023: President Erdogan continues to blame Israel for the Israel-Hamas War, despite the fact Hamas atrocities started the conflict. Erdogan’s critics in Turkey and internationally note that he is now using terms associated with the clash of civilizations between Western and Islamic nations.

November 20, 2023: President Erdogan says Turkey will not let the issue of Israel's possession of nuclear weapons disappear from global discussion. He also called for international inspection of Israel’s nuclear weapons. For over a decade Turkey has tried to present itself to the Arab world as a friend and protector of Arabs. Yet Arabs remember that for centuries they were subjects of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire that fell in the 1920s. The Ottomans treated uncooperative Arabs with great brutality and that has not been forgotten.

November 18, 2023: President Erdogan said Turkey will help rebuild damaged infrastructure in Gaza if a ceasefire is agreed to. He specifically mentioned hospitals and schools and water and energy generation facilities.

November 17, 2023: In the German capital, President Erdogan met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss economic relations between Germany and Turkey. Bilateral trade in 2023 is expected to exceed $50 billion. However, political relations are tense. Germany firmly supports Israel in the Israel-Hamas War. Erdogan is accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

Admiral Ercument Tatlıoglu, commander of the Turkish Naval Forces said that Turkey can unilaterally secure the Black Sea itself. Turkey does not want an additional U.S. or other NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. The admiral said Turkey is enforcing the 1936 Montreux Convention, a treaty governing transit in the Turkish Straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. He asserted that Turkey has the power to protect everyone’s interests in the Black Sea. He also discussed the threat of floating mines in the Black Sea. For context, in late July 2023 the U.S. Dept of Defense said it has no plans to send warships or patrol aircraft to the Black Sea. In August a U.S. warship made a port call in Istanbul, which is an extension of the Mediterranean called the Sea of Marmara. Turkey has allowed Russian civilian ships carrying supplies to Syria to transit the Straits. (Austin Bay)

November 16, 2023: Turkey’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission delayed a vote on approving Sweden's NATO membership. A member of parliament told the media that there is no timeline for addressing Sweden’ bid to join NATO.

Turkey’s Ministry of Defense said that it is discussing buying Typhoon Eurofighter jet fighters from Britain and Spain. Germany and Italy, the other two members of the Eurofighter consortium, would have to approve the purchase. Turkey is reportedly interested in purchasing 40 Typhoons, as a hedge against a U.S. refusal to sell then more F-16 fighters.

November 15, 2023: Turkey continues to import oil produced in the Russian Urals oil fields. Turkey has purchased more than 800,000 tons of Urals oil since November 1. The oil was transported by Russian tankers.

November 13, 2023: Commercial sources said Turkey imported 1.4 million tons of Urals oil in October 2023.

MIT, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization claimed it neutralized a senior PKK leader in an operation in Syria. Another source said possibly Iraq. The leader was identified as being involved in money laundering and drug smuggling.

The Ministry of Defense confirmed it has agreed to implement or reactivate confidence building measures with Greece’s Ministry of Defense.

Turkish UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) killed two PKK associated fighters in a strike in northwestern Iraq.

November 11, 2023: Turkey is supplying Ukraine with Canik M2 12.7 mm (.50 caliber) machine guns. At least 600 have been delivered in the last year. Each weapon costs between $15,000 and $20,000. The weapons are usually mounted on armored vehicles. The M2s are effective against troops, light armored vehicles, and UAVs.

November 10, 2023: Turkey announced it had sent a ship to Egypt carrying 20 ambulances, medical supplies, electrical generators, and field hospital equipment to help treat Gazans wounded in the Israel-Hamas War. The hospital has intensive care units and operating units.

November 8, 2023: Turkey’s supreme court upheld a law that requires prison sentences for individuals spreading disinformation. The opposition Republican People's Party had asked that the law be annulled.


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