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.

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UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

UN agency UNRWA urgently suspends aid to Rafah

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has suspended its operations in Rafah. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the organisation that provides aid to Palestinian refugees, conveyed this information on Saturday evening (1 June) via X. 

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Israeli operation in West Bank refugee camp continues, at least 10 dead and 100 injured

Israeli operation in West Bank refugee camp continues, at least 10 dead and 100 injured

On Monday (3 July) Israel launched a major military operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the north of the occupied West Bank in what the Israeli government described as an "extensive counter-terrorism effort". Monday morning began with drone strikes on targets in the militant stronghold, before Israel deployed hundreds of troops into the West Bank refugee camp. The operation came after growing domestic pressure following a series of attacks on Israelis, including a shooting last month that killed four Israelis. As of Tuesday morning (4 July), Palestinian officials have announced that 10 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli operation in Jenin, while over 100 have been injured. Some 3,000 people have fled the refugee camp overnight, reports the Palestinian Red Crescent. While the Israeli government said that its operation "dealt a heavy blow to terrorist organisations", Palestinian officials have described the events as a "war crime" and an "invasion".
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Russian airstrike on Idlib market in Syria kill at least 13, injures dozens

Russian airstrike on Idlib market in Syria kill at least 13, injures dozens

A Russian airstrike launched on a market in the north-western Syrian city of Idlib on Sunday (25 June) have killed 13 people, reports Arab News. At least nine civilians are among the dead, including two children. Around 30 people are understood to have been injured in the Russian strike on the rebel-held city, and it is expected that the death toll will rise. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - backed by Russia and Iran - has won back most of the territory that it lost to various groups in the early years of the Syrian Civil War that began in 2011 after the regime violently surpressed pro-democracy protests that had swept through a number of Arab countries. The violent repression of the protests led to President Assad and Syria being a pariah state for a number of years, although a process of the country's rehabilitation has recently taken place with Syria re-joining the Arab League in May this year, at the 32nd summit of the group in Jeddah. You can read more about this here. Over the years, Russia has repeatedly launched airstrikes across rebel-held regions of Syria. Although deadly Russian airstrikes on civilians in Syria have been limited this year - likely due to its ongoing invasion of Ukraine - Sunday's strike is the deadliest attack on Syria this year.
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Swedish negotiators head to Ankara for renewed talks on NATO membership

Swedish negotiators head to Ankara for renewed talks on NATO membership

Swedish negotiators are in the Turkish capital city of Ankara today, on Wednesday (14 June), for the first set of talks with Turkey on its NATO membership bid since President Erdogan's election victory on 28 May. Sweden applied for NATO membership alongside Finland on 18 May 2022, almost three months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. While Finland joined the military alliance on 4 April, Sweden's bid continues to be held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary. Sweden's chief NATO negotiator Oscar Stenström and top civil servant in the Swedish foreign ministry, Jan Knutsson, are expected to meet Akif Cagatay Kilic, the new security advisor appointed by President Erdogan following his 28 May victory. The two sides will discuss Sweden's membership of NATO, and the extent to which the country has fulfilled its promises in the so-called "trilateral memorandum" between Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed at NATO's summit in Madrid on 28 June last year. Last Sunday (4 June), NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to approve Sweden's membership ahead of the bloc's summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11-12 July.
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Erdogan wins another five years as Turkish president after hotly-contested campaign

Erdogan wins another five years as Turkish president after hotly-contested campaign

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won another five years as the President of Turkey in a run-off against his main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The first round which took place on 14 May saw Erdogan winning just shy of an outright majority, forcing a second round vote yesterday (28 May). According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, incumbent Erdogan won 52% of the vote while Kilicdaroglu won 48% of the vote. Erdogan's victory means that, assuming he sees out his coming five-year term as the Turkish President, he will have been either Prime Minister or President of Turkey for 25 years. Speaking to a victory rally in the Turkish capital, Ankara, President Erdogan said "today nobody has lost. 85 million have won as a whole. As required by the responsibility that our nation gave us, we are not upset, sad, resented or raged against anybody." "Now it is time to leave all the discussions and debates from the election campaigning process. And to unite and get together around our national goals and dreams," he said. Meanwhile, responding to Erdogan's victory, defeated challenger Kilicdaroglu complained about what he called the "most unfair election in recent years".
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Erdogan falls short of outright majority in first round of Turkey presidential election

Erdogan falls short of outright majority in first round of Turkey presidential election

Turkey's highly anticipated presidential election held yesterday (14 May) has left incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan falling short of securing the necessary votes for a first-round victory.  Despite polls having predicted an initial first round victory for Erdogan’s challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the outcome sets the stage for a runoff between the two, the outcome of which may have huge implications for Turkey's political landscape and its role on the international stage. The second round will take place on 28 May.  Erdogan, who has been either Prime Minister or President for 20 years, failed to reach the required 50% of votes in the first round to declare outright victory. With 97.95% of votes counted, Erdogan secured 49.34%, while Kilicdaroglu garnered 44.99%, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. The third candidate, Sinan Ogan, received 5.28% of votes This election marks a significant test for Erdogan, who has faced economic challenges and criticism regarding the government's handling of the earthquake on 6 February. Kilicdaroglu on the other hand fronts a coalition of six parties who are seeking to oust Erdogan with promises to address economic issues and restore democratic institutions.
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Syria readmitted to the Arab League 11 years after suspension

Syria readmitted to the Arab League 11 years after suspension

Syria has been readmitted to the Arab League 11 years after its membership was suspended over the government's violent crackdown of pro-democracy protests in 2011 that led to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. In a meeting of 13 out of 22 foreign ministers at the Arab League's headquarters in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday (7 May), they agreed to "resume the participation of the delegations of the government of the Syrian Arab Republic in the meetings of the Council of the League of Arab States", according to a statement.  The Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit also told journalists on Sunday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could participate in the upcoming Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia if he is invited and if he wants to attend. In the statement released after the vote to readmit Syria, which was reportedly not unanimous, the Arab League said that the "resolution of the Syria conflict is a step-by-step matter", of which Syria's readmission to the group was only a first step. The statement added that the Arab League supports Syria's territorial integrity and the "withdrawal of all foreign forces" from the country.