Region

Turkey and the Levant

Stories under this heading cover Turkey as well as the Levant – a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean region of Western Asia, consisting of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

MPs again fail to elect next president of Lebanon
MPs in Lebanon failed again to elect a new president on Thursday for an eighth time, despite the deepening impact of the political deadlock on the country’s economic woes. Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October with no successor. Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority. Lawmaker Michel Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States, won the support of 37 lawmakers Thursday — well short of the required majority — while 52 spoilt ballots were cast, mainly by pro-Hezbollah lawmakers. Only 111 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers showed up for the vote. By convention, Lebanon’s presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim. Parliament is expected to convene for a new attempt to elect a president on December 8.
dennis2020 Thu, 12/01/2022 - 14:05 Bomb attack in Jerusalem kills one and injures approximately 15

At least one person has been killed and approximately 15 have been wounded from explosions at a bus stop and a traffic junction in Jerusalem on Wednesday (23 November). Israeli officials have labelled the explosions as an attack with terroristic intent amidst high tensions between Israel and Palestine.

patrickn97 Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:59

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Putin-Erdogan talks in Sochi

Putin-Erdogan talks in Sochi

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkish president, Recip Tayip Erdogan had four hours of talks in Sochi on Friday (5 August) to discuss a number of pressing issues, including Syria and Ukraine. In the joint statement released after the meeting the two presidents pointed out the importance of sincere, frank and trust-based relations between Turkey and Russia for the establishment of regional and international stability. "The two leaders confirmed that constructive relations between the two countries played a role in reaching the Istanbul Agreement on the transport of grain and food from Ukraine."   In the joint statement, Russia's implementation in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Istanbul Agreement, including the uninterrupted export of raw materials for the production of grain, fertilizer and fertilizer was underlined.. "The leaders confirmed their determination to act in solidarity and coordination in the fight against all terrorist organizations in Syria."  The two presidents agreed to boost political and economic cooperation including in energy and trade.
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UN to investigate deadly attack which Iraq blames on Turkey

UN to investigate deadly attack which Iraq blames on Turkey

UN Security Council members have backed Iraq’s demand for a major investigation into a deadly July 20 artillery attack on a tourist area popular with Iraqis in the mountainous Duhok governorate of the Kurdistan region that left at least nine people dead and 23 others wounded. It comes only days after the Security Council unanimously condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.” However, council members did not mention Turkey during the emergency meeting late on Tuesday that was sought by Iraq and the UAE to discuss the attack. On the day of the strike, Baghdad summoned Turkey’s ambassador to condemn what it described as a “heinous crime committed by the Turkish troops, which has topped its continuous aggressions on the sovereignty of Iraq and its territories.”   Turkey has denied responsibility, and blames the Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party, which it considers a terrorist organization, for the attack. The PKK has been engaged in a long-running guerrilla war in southeast Turkey. Iraq does not give sanctuary to PKK fighters or its leadership, many of whom take refuge in the mountains where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. Baghdad has repeatedly rejected their presence on its territory. On Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned an attack on its Consulate-General in Mosul the night before and called for the Iraqi authorities to take steps to protect its diplomatic missions.
The unlikely trio met in Tehran
A summit meeting of the leaders of Turkey, Russia and Iran took place in Tehran on Tuesday 19 July. This is an unlikely trio, three ambitious regional powers who have been brought together by circumstances. The event itself was a set-piece affair, and most of the serious work was done in the bilateral Iran-Russia, Iran-Turkey and Turkey-Russia meetings. Top of the agenda was Syria, and Turkey's determination not to allow Syria to be a springboard for Kurdish militant activity against it. Turkey has for weeks been preparing for a military operation into Syria. Turkish president, Recip Tayip Erdogan told his Russian and Iranian counterparts that he expected their full support in Ankara’s fight against “terrorists” in Syria. Both Russia and Iran have a military presence in parts of Syria mentioned as possible targets of Turkey’s new assault. “What we expect from Russia and Iran is their support for Turkey in its fight against terrorism,” Erdogan said. However, in a meeting with Erdogan on Monday (18 July), Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei told Erdogan such an offensive would be “detrimental” for the region and called for the issue to be resolved through dialogue between Ankara, Damascus, Moscow and Tehran. A 16 point statement was issued at the end of the summit which makes no reference to the imminent Turkish offensive.
dennis2020 Wed, 07/20/2022 - 08:01
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Opinion: Realism should be the basis for the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

Opinion: Realism should be the basis for the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

"There should be realistic expectations of what can result from ongoing discussions on the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey", writes Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. The potential normalisation of relations – establishment of diplomatic relations, and opening of land borders – does not mean that Armenia and Turkey will not have disagreements, contradictions, or even will not act against each other in particular circumstances. "Given the current situation in the South Caucasus, the region is far away from peace, and no one should have hopes that Armenia – Turkey normalization will solve conflicts and bring an era of peace to the region. However, in the current situation, even a contribution to regional stability is too significant an opportunity to miss."    
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Turkish and Armenian leaders speak on the phone in another step towards the normalisation of relations

Turkish and Armenian leaders speak on the phone in another step towards the normalisation of relations

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have stressed the importance of normalisation of their relations to the consolidation peace in the region, according to their respective press offices. The two leaders discussed the normalisation process in a phone call on Monday (11 July), seen as an important step in the ongoing efforts. "Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Nikol Pashinyan emphasized the importance they attach to the bilateral normalization process between Turkiye and Armenia, which will also contribute to the strengthening of peace and stability in the region," a statement by the Turkish presidency said. They also expressed hope that an agreement reached in early July would be implemented soon. The Armenian leader wrote on Twitter: "We expect early implementation of agreements reached in the meeting of our Special Representatives on July 1.” At that tmeeting the two envoys agreed on the early opening of their land border to the citizens of third countries.
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Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

Opinion: Israel and Lebanon move towards resolving a long standing dispute on their maritime border

There are reports that the US may be about to broker a deal between Israel and Lebanon, resolving a long-standing dispute about their maritime border and the exploitation of two large oil and gas fields in the Levantine Basin. Amos Hochstein, the US Senior Advisor for Energy Security, this month mediated indirect talks between the two countries, who technically are still at war with each other, and have no formal diplomatic relations in an attempt to resolve the issue. After his meetings in Lebanon last week, it seemed that a breakthrough had finally been reached, when the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, reportedly presented a unified position on behalf of the government, which offered the prospect for a compromise This new proposal would create an S shaped maritime border, granting Lebanon access to the whole of the Qana field, while leaving Israel the entirety of Karish. In the past, the lack of agreement within the Lebanese government, and its unwillingness to compromise had been the key factors holding back negotiations, and this new approach led Hochstein to strike an optimistic note, saying that Lebanon had taken “a very strong step forward”. The US Energy advisor will now relay the offer to Israel and await a response. Both countries stand to gain from a swift and peaceful resolution to this decade long problem which has prevented them from extracting any value out of the fields. 
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The great Saudi-Turkish restart

The great Saudi-Turkish restart

After years of dispute during which relations fell to a historical low, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday sealed a restart in their relations during a state visit to Turkey by the Kingdom's Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman. The turquoise carpet was laid out at the presidential palace in Ankara as the Crown prince arrived to be greeted by Turkey's president, Recip Tayip Erdogan. The two men held discussions on bilateral relations and regional and international issues. But this visit was mainly about symbolism. The substance had already been sorted over weeks and months of discussions involving senior officials from the two countries. President Erdogan was himself in Saudi Arabia only a month ago. But the visit of Mohammad bin Salman to Ankara had huge symbolic significance and it marked the final act in a process that saw the two countries draw back from years of animosity, rooted mainly in different perspectives on the future of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world. Both countries see themselves as leaders in the region, as well as a beacon for Muslims worldwide. Prior to visiting Turkey, the Saudi Crown Prince also visited Egypt and Jordan. In a few weeks time he will welcome in Riyadh US President Joe Biden, in a final act that will see the complete rehabilitation of the heir to the Saudi throne who had been caught in international controversy.
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Turkey holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Turkey holds delicate talks with Sweden and Finland ahead of a decision on their NATO membership application

Senior Turkish officials have met with government delegations from Sweden and Finland as discussions continue following Ankara's threat to veto the NATO membership application of the two Nordic countries. Most NATO countries have warmly welcomed the decision of Sweden and Finland since their membership in NATO will considerably strengthen the northern flank of the alliance, but Turkey accuses both countries of having an ambivalent position on Turkey's struggle with militant Kurdish groups. On Wednesday, Swedish and Finnish government delegations travelled to Ankara to meet with Turkish representatives in an effort to resolve the country’s doubts regarding their accession to NATO. In their first face-to-face meeting since the two Nordic countries applied for membership, Turkish representatives stressed their security concerns, and conditions regarding Sweden’s “cooperation” with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said in a statement late on Wednesday that positive steps towards the lifting of an arms embargo from Finland and Sweden had been taken. In October of 2019, Sweden and Finland were among some  European states that imposed an arms embargo on Turkey following a military incursion into Syria.
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Opinion: There is still a chance Russia will be a spoiler in the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

Opinion: There is still a chance Russia will be a spoiler in the Armenia-Turkey normalisation process

As long as Turkey maintains a fairly neutral stance on the Ukraine issue, Russia will not interfere in the current efforts to normalise Armenian-Turkish relations, says Benyamin Poghosyan in this op-ed. "However, if Turkey changes its policy towards Russia, and joins the anti-Russian sanctions the situation may change. In such case, this may break the Russian – Turkish understanding for the post-2020 South Caucasus. Russia may assume the role of spoiler in the Armenia – Turkey normalization process, significantly slowing down the movement towards establishing diplomatic relations and opening up borders."