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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Turkey to take over Somalia's naval defence for a decade

Turkey to take over Somalia's naval defence for a decade

The Somali cabinet formally approved a defence and economic cooperation agreement with Turkey on Wednesday, authorising Ankara to build, train and equip the Somali navy and reportedly defend its territorial waters amid tensions with Ethiopia. The agreement strengthens Turkish political and military position in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region amid increasing concerns about security in the strategic waterway. Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre described the agreement at the cabinet meeting as a “historic” one that would become a “legacy” for the Somali nation in the long run.  “This agreement will put an end to the fear of terrorism, pirates, illegal fishing, poisoning, abuse and threats from abroad,” he said, according to the local reports. A Turkish defence official declined to comment, saying that the contents of the agreement would be public simultaneously as it is ratified by the Turkish parliament and the president. “We cannot reveal the details as it has a long way to be ratified,” the official added.  The Turkish Navy already operates off the shore of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden under a UN mission to combat piracy and armed robbery since 2009. 
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800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

800 western officials say the policies of their governments on Gaza "are contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide"

The BBC is reporting that more than 800 serving officials in the US and Europe have signed a statement warning that their own governments' policies on the Israel-Gaza war could amount to "grave violations of international law". Many are describing the statement as an unprecedented move that reflects great concern in official circles in western countries about the the position of their governments on the situation in Gaza. The "transatlantic statement", a copy of which was passed to the BBC, says their administrations risk being complicit in "one of the worst human catastrophes of this century" but that their expert advice has been sidelined. It is the latest sign of significant levels of dissent within the governments of some of Israel's key Western allies. One signatory to the statement, a US government official with more than 25 years' national security experience, told the BBC of the "continued dismissal" of their concerns. "The voices of those who understand the region and the dynamics were not listened to," said the official. "What's really different here is we're not failing to prevent something, we're actively complicit. That is fundamentally different from any other situation I can recall," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The statement is signed by civil servants from the US, the EU and 11 European countries including the UK, France and Germany.

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Turkish opposition nominate Kemal Kilicdaroglu to challenge Erdogan

Turkish opposition nominate Kemal Kilicdaroglu to challenge Erdogan

After weeks of fierce negotiations between an alliance of six opposition parties from across the political spectrum, the so-called "Table of Six" officially nominated Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Monday (6 March) as their candidate to challenge incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May's presidential elections. Kilicdaroglu, who has led the center-left Republican People's Party for over a decade, is an understated 74-year-old former bureaucrat from the country's social security authority. There has been some criticism that he lacks the flair and charisma needed to topple Erdogan's populism after 20 years of rule. In speech in Ankara announcing his nomination, Kilicdaroglu said that the opposition coalition would "run the country in consultation and agreement with one another". The group has pledged to reverse many of the changes that Erdogan has brought about since becoming prime minister in 2003, including returning the country to a parliamentary system.
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Commentary
It took an earthquake to jolt Armenia-Turkey relations out of decades of animosity

It took an earthquake to jolt Armenia-Turkey relations out of decades of animosity

The earthquake that hit Turkey and parts of Syria on 6 February was a massive tragedy. As of Thursday (16 February) it has left nearly fifty thousand people dead, many tens of thousands injured and millions affected directly or indirectly. The world rallied around the beleaguered communities, putting aside political differences and diplomatic obstacles. The impact of the earthquake on Turkey was enormous. Ten out of eighty one Turkish provinces were affected, and some Turkish towns were wiped away almost completely. Humanitarian aid started pouring into Turkey from every part of the world. The contribution of one small neighbouring country was particularly significant, not only as part of the humanitarian effort, but also for its political and diplomatic symbolism. Armenia and Turkey have had a difficult relationship for decades. The two neighbouring countries do not have diplomatic relations. Their borders are closed. Recent attempts to normalise relations appeared to be moving at very slow speed – both sides having to manoeuvre around many sensitive issues, and a heavy baggage of history. It took an earthquake to jolt relations out of decades of animosity.
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Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers meet in Ankara, agree to expedite work to open border

Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers meet in Ankara, agree to expedite work to open border

The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers Mevlut Cavusoglu and Ararat Mirzoyan have met in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Wednesday (15 February). The meeting followed an announcement from Armenian officials that a second Armenian aid convoy crossed the land border into Turkey late on Tuesday after the devastating 6 February earthquake which has killed over 40,000 people across Turkey and Syria. The meeting is being seen as a major development in the normalisation of ties between the two countries who do not enjoy any formal diplomatic relations and who remain divided over a number of issues. Mirzoyan expressed his "condolences to the families of the many thousands of victims of the devastating earthquake, the people and government of Turkey, and I wish swift recovery to all those injured." Recalling the 1988 Spitak earthquake in Armenia that killed over 20,000 people, Mirzoyan said, "I believe that the international community must not remain indifferent towards any humanitarian crisis happening anywhere around the globe. And it was by this very principle that immediately after the devastating earthquake the government of Armenia made a decision to send rescuers and humanitarian aid to Turkey."
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Armenia "ready" to open border with Turkey, more aid passes through, FMs meet in Ankara

Armenia "ready" to open border with Turkey, more aid passes through, FMs meet in Ankara

The Secretary of Armenia’s Security Council Armen Grigoryan has told journalists at a briefing on Tuesday (14 February) that Armenia is "ready"  for opening of the shared border with Turkey and normalisation of relations any time. "The Armenian and Turkish sides are holding discussions on the issue and will continue the discussions, hoping that it will take place as soon as possible," Grigoryan said. He added that an agreement on opening the border for nationals of third countries had indeed been reached last year between Armenia and Turkey, but said that no timeframe was discussed. The agreement was struck in July 2022, but changes on the ground have not yet materialised. Tweeting early in the morning on Wednesday, the Spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vahan Hunanyan announced, "Armenia continues sending humanitarian aid to earthquake-affected regions. Late last night, trucks loaded with the second batch of humanitarian aid crossed the Armenian-Turkish border through the Margara bridge."
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Turkey-Armenia border opens for the first time in 30 years for earthquake aid

Turkey-Armenia border opens for the first time in 30 years for earthquake aid

The Margara-Alican border bridge connecting Armenia and Turkey has been opened to allow five Armenian aid trucks to pass to the Turkish regions affected by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Monday (6 February). It is the first time the Turkey-Armenia border has been opened in 30 years. "Trucks with humanitarian aid have crossed the Margara bridge on the border and are on their way to the earthquake-stricken region," Vahan Hunanyan, a spokesperson for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, wrote on Twitter. Serdar Kılıç, Ankara’s special envoy to Yerevan, hailed the arrival of the aid trucks, writing on Twitter that he "will always remember the generous aid sent by the people of Armenia to help alleviate the sufferings of our people in the earthquake-striken region in Türkiye." The bridge, which connects the village of Margara in Armenia with the village of Alican in Turkey, had been closed since 1993, when Turkey closed its borders with Armenia in protest at the First Karabakh War.
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Opinion
Opinion: Sweden must re-evaluate its internal and external relations before NATO accession can become reality

Opinion: Sweden must re-evaluate its internal and external relations before NATO accession can become reality

Given the increasingly uncertain political climate in which Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson finds himself, Sweden requires an internal and external positional re-evaluation in order to finalise its accession to NATO, writes Alfred Stranne in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. Meanwhile, Sweden needs to understand the increasing anger coming from Ankara, which is severely hindering its progression towards becoming a member of the alliance. Meanwhile, Sweden must also look within NATO itself to seek support in reassuring Ankara that Sweden will be a significant security provider for the alliance, providing added benefits for Ankara as well. This would repair Sweden’s relations with Turkey and reassure Ankara that despite the ideological and religious differences between Kristersson and Erdogan, Sweden and Turkey have common interests in seeking regional peace and stability.