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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A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean

A ground breaking meeting between the President of Turkiye, Recip Tayip Erdogan, and Greek Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on Monday (13 May) is being hailed as the dawn of a new era of peace in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mitsotakis was in Ankara as the guest of the Turkish leader. There are no unsolvable problems between Athens and Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, as he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis praised the state of relations between the two neighbors while pledging to further enhance bilateral ties. "We had a constructive and positive meeting and discussed problems in Türkiye-Greece relations; We will solve problems through dialogue," Erdoğan said at a joint news conference with Mitsotakis. Erdoğan said that Ankara and Athens are committed to resolving issues via "cordial dialogue, good neighborly ties, and international law" as outlined in last year's Athens Declaration on Friendly Relations and Good-Neighborliness. Improvement of bilateral relations with Türkiye is yielding concrete and positive results, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said "I can only begin by thanking you for the warm hospitality today in Ankara, it was a fourth meeting in the last 10 months, which I believe proves that the two neighbors can now establish this approach of mutual understanding, no longer as some exception, but as a productive normality that is not negated by the known differences in our positions," Mitsotakis said. He said bilateral relations have been progressing, as agreed by the parties, on three levels: political dialogue, positive agenda and confidence-building measures. "I believe that it is a positive development in a difficult time for international peace, but also for the broader stability in our region," the Greek leader said.

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Organization of Turkic States convenes in Ankara to discuss disaster preparation and humanitarian relief

Organization of Turkic States convenes in Ankara to discuss disaster preparation and humanitarian relief

Today on Thursday (16 March), the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) will meet in the Turkish capital of Ankara to discuss regional disaster preparation, joint humanitarian relief, and the interoperability of Turkic State disaster responses. The meeting comes some six weeks after a devasting earthquake in Turkey and Syria that has killed over 50,000 people. Established in 2009 as the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, the OTS is an intergovernmental organisation that has as its "overarching aim" the promotion of "comprehensive cooperation among Turkic States". It has five member states - Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan - as well as three observer states, namely Turkmenistan, Hungary and the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyrpus. The precise theme of Thursday's extraordinary summit is "Disaster-Emergency Management and Humanitarian Assistance". Among those attending the summit are President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
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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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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.