Quiet Before The Stormtenberg
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No, Pres. Erdoğan did not ask Finland and Sweden to change the word for turkey to “Greek chicken” and Le Chou News’ Turkish drillship vs. NATO rowboat image makes for excellent satire, but there were few laughs in the little-to-no progress made on the Turkey-NATO spat as Ankara threatens to delay the process by a year, possibly letting it drag on past elections (here and in Sweden).
While Stockholm’s new foreign policy statement was expected to spark some appreciation in Ankara, Erdoğan Wednesday stressed once more that Turkey is not doing concessions, saying: “We shall never change our stance on the NATO issue until Sweden and Finland take clear and concrete steps in the fight against terror.”
According to the FT, Turkey also rejected trilateral talks organized by NATO, apparently demanding those concrete proposals as a precondition to any talks at all, with FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu adding Wednesday that recent responses “did not meet the expectation.”
NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg said he considered Turkey’s security concerns legitimate but also admitted he was less optimistic about the process than a month earlier. While Stoltenberg claimed the NATO summit in Madrid was never the deadline, analyst Aaron Stein argues things will likely get far more difficult after June 29: “The window to get to “yes” on Sweden/Finland accession is now.”
On a parallel track, Turkey is willing to host a 4-way meeting regarding the Ukraine grain corridor, Çavuşoğlu said this weekend. He also shared some details about the plan Wednesday, which reportedly involves a hotline between generals from Russia, Ukraine and Turkey.
– Ingrid Woudwijk
Way back in March, Turkish-Greek relations were expected to improve amid a string of positive messages and photo ops. But that’s all in the past now, as Erdoğan repeated calls Friday for Greece to demilitarize its Aegean islands
Speaking at the NATO meeting Tuesday, Defense Min. Hulusi Akar insisted Ankara wanted to resolve problems through dialogue, but that Greek officials were escalating tensions for their personal and political ambitions.
As historian Ryan Gingeras continues to question the claimed military build up on Greek islands, TEPAV’s Selim Koru told Arab News: “This crisis is the manifestation of a deep political process that has been unfolding for decades. It has a rationale of its own and won’t stop until it has run its course.”
While Carnegie’s Sinan Ülgen, as quoted in this comprehensive overview via Politico, said: “Turkey is trying to position itself diplomatically to leverage the influence it has achieved during the war in Ukraine.”
In a constitutional committee hearing on the 'disinformation law,' opposition MPs submitted criticism and motions on almost every article. By late Wednesday, the two-day hearing ended with all opposition motions denied, and the draft was approved with minor changes.
So, what’s in the 40-article draft bill? It would introduce an up to three-year prison sentence for people who “knowingly disseminate misleading information via social media.” The bill would also classify digital news outlets as conventional media, while regulating social media companies as well as press card approvals for journalists.
Opponents have criticized the draft as an attempt to further silence Turkish media and described it as a preparatory step on the road to upcoming elections.
"The fact that esteemed members automatically accepted those articles without an explanation is extremely sad," CHP MP İbrahim Kaboğlu said during the hearing, referring to regulations on press cards. Kaboğlu’s office later confirmed with Turkey recap that the CHP would take the issue to the Constitutional Court when the draft becomes law – probably during next week’s general assembly.
In other media news, 20 Kurdish journalists spent eight days in detention. Four of them were released Wednesday, while the remaining 16 were sent to jail on terrorism-linked charges.
Mezopotamya News Agency, whose journalists were among the detained, stated the arrests were linked to Turkey's cross-border military operations, but lawyers and journalists in Diyarbakır summed up the actions as “election preparation,” telling Turkey recap: "The government has started its election campaign from the Kurdish region again."
Candidates and candidon’ts
Surprising no one, Erdoğan announced he’ll be running for a third term in elections scheduled for June 2023. Speaking Friday on CHP home turf, aka İzmir, he directly challenged CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to announce the main opposition bloc’s candidate: “If you have the courage, declare your candidacy or the candidate of the alliance.”
Meanwhile, İYİ Party lawmaker Hilal Oral openly questioned Kılıçdaroğlu’s electability due to his Alevi background. In response, Oral was referred to a disciplinary board, İYİ chair Meral Akşener apologized and candidate speculation continues to fill our small talk as opposed to the weather or sports or whatever normal people talk about.
Among the candidates not listed will be CHP İstanbul head Canan Kaftancıoğlu apparently, as the Court of Cassation revoked her party membership this week.
On the economic front, the lira fell slightly to 17.30 per USD this morning following the US Fed rate hike. The forecast is gloomy, with even Robin Brooks tweeting: “Turkey experienced currency crises in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. So maybe it's not surprising how little focus there is in global markets on the current devaluation episode.”
Last night, DEVA head Babcan warned: "It's only a matter of time before we fall into the pit of bankruptcy. It happens overnight. This is not a joke." While S&P Global is also sounding the alarm, stating Turkey is “highly vulnerable” to liquidity challenges.
The latest mediation efforts include a new bond plan, with a possible energy deal with Abu Dhabi on the horizon, though long-term trends could be impacted by the doubling of home sales – led by Russian buyers – and accelerated gas production in the Black Sea.
Now ye do what they told ye
The two events inspired us to run a flash Twitter poll, where 77 percent of respondents said they would keep using “Turkey” when speaking English. It seems adding that “ye” to the country’s name could use some help from Ye, himself, aka Kanye West after he successfully (?) underwent a name change.
Though we have to admit “Turkey, yeah!” sounds more positive than “Turkey, no!” – the repetition of which might be the true source of this entire debate.
Inside İstanbul’s underground queer scene (ID)
Russia considers Turkey's possible military operation in Syria unwise (Reuters)
Israel urges nationals to leave Turkey over Iran attack threat (AFP)
Turkey’s ‘culture war’: Anger grows as string of events canceled (AJ)
Turkey introduces new restrictions on refugees (Arab News)
Locals attack refugee waste workers, set depots on fire in İstanbul's Ataşehir (Bianet)
Cause of flooding concrete structures, not global warming: Experts (HDN)
Turkey’s quest for Strategic Autonomy
Former Greek Nat. Sec. Advisor Alexandros Diakopoulos and researcher Nikos Stournaras argue Ankara is radically revisioning the status quo in the East Med, writing: “Understanding the ‘Blue Homeland’ as the heart of Turkey’s quest for strategic autonomy explains why Ankara remains an intransigently belligerent actor.” (ELIAMEP)
Cyprus has gas for Europe. A decades-old conflict is keeping it untouched
With non-Russian energy sources in high demand, journalist Nektaria Stamouli looks at offshore gas fields near Cyprus and what’s preventing them from being linked to European markets as Turkish Amb. to Athens Burak Özügergin asks: “Why should it take a crisis like the war in Ukraine or an earthquake to remember that we need to solve our problems?” (Politico)
New Turkey-Uzbekistan Strategic Partnership Accelerates Turkey’s Rise as a Eurasian Agenda-Setter
Analyst Michaël Tanchum outlines how both Turkey and China are increasing trade and transport links with Uzbekistan, and in the process, one another, writing: “Combined with the expanding Turkey-Pakistan strategic partnership, this makes Turkey a rising Eurasian agenda setter that will impact the strategic calculus of both Beijing and Washington.” (Turkey Analyst)
Amid dust storms and drought, Turkey and Iran are at odds over transboundary water management
Researcher Nima Khorrami argues the Southeast Anatolian Project is at the heart of water disputes between Turkey and Iran, concluding: “While the two states are likely to continue their bilateral efforts ... it is not at all certain if such efforts will lead to any meaningful result when it comes to addressing the root causes of the dispute.” (MEI)
Week ahead – together with Argonotlar
17 June A group exhibition titled “Tanık”, or Witness, opens at Ferda Art Platform in Şişli, İstanbul
21 June Loughborough University London hosts an online panel titled "Gezi Park a decade later: how Turkish civil society has changed?" at 1400 GMT
23 June Central Bank announces interest rate decision
Turkey recap is supported by readers via Patreon, where members get access to our back channel, news tracking tools, calendar and more.
Diego Cupolo, co-founder + editor @diegocupolo
Verda Uyar, freelance journalist @verdauyar
Ingrid Woudwijk, freelance journalist @deingrid
Gonca Tokyol, freelance journalist @goncatokyol
Batuhan Üsküp, editorial intern @batuskup