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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Türkiye mediates talks between Somalia and Ethiopia

Türkiye mediates talks between Somalia and Ethiopia

Türkiye mediated talks between Somalia and Ethiopia on Monday (1 July) to ease diplomatic tensions between the two African neighbours, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Taye Atske Selassie and Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Moallim Fiqi held a frank and forward-looking discussion on their differences, mediated by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan. The negotiations are the latest effort to mend diplomatic relations between the East African neighbours. Tensions arose after Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding with the breakaway region of Somaliland in January, which Somalia condemned as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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Turkey rules out support for Sweden NATO bid after Stockholm protests

Turkey rules out support for Sweden NATO bid after Stockholm protests

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said that Sweden should not expect support from Ankara over its bid to join NATO following protests in Stockholm at the weekend. Surrounded by police for his protection, on Saturday (21 January) Danish-Swedish, far-right, anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm while making disparaging remarks about immigrants and Islam. This incensed President Erdogan who criticised the Swedish authorities for letting the stunt happen. “It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” Erdogan said on Monday (23 January). Another bone of contention between Sweden and Turkey regarding the former's accession to NATO concerns the Kurdish question. Later on Saturday following Paludan's stunt, there was a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Stockholm where flags of various Kurdish groups were waved, including that of the Kurdish Workers' Party, or the PKK. The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, and although it is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, its symbols are not banned in Sweden.
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Shock after Irish peacekeeper killed in Lebanon

Shock after Irish peacekeeper killed in Lebanon

An Irish soldier was shot and killed on a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and a second was in a critical condition after a “hostile” crowd surrounded their armored vehicle, Ireland’s defense minister said on Thursday. Irish peacekeepers have been in Lebanon since 1978 and it is the first Irish fatality there in two decades. “We’re all very shocked and deeply saddened, it is a reminder to us of the extraordinary sacrifices that our peacekeepers make on a constant basis,” Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin told reporters in Brussels. The Irish soldiers, part of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL), were on what Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland’s foreign minister, said was considered a standard run from UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon to Beirut when the incident happened in Al-Aqbieh late on Wednesday “The two armored vehicles effectively got separated. One of them got surrounded by a hostile mob, I think that’s the only way you could describe them, and shots were fired. Unfortunately, one of our peacekeepers was killed,” Coveney told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
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Türkiye warned Greece to stop militarizing the Aegean islands

Türkiye warned Greece to stop militarizing the Aegean islands

Türkiye's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has warned Greece on Tuesday (6 December) to stop militarizing the Aegean islands, or Ankara “will take the necessary steps on the ground.” He said Türkiye had sent a letter to the United Nations in July 2021 laying out its arguments against Athens, which he said had violated the agreements of Lausanne and Paris. Greece denied these accusations, saying it has not provoked its neighbour nor amassed a large landing fleet on its shores.
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MPs again fail to elect next president of Lebanon

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.
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Lebanon is still without a president

Lebanon is still without a president

Lebanese MPs failed for a sixth time on Thursday to elect a president to fill the vacancy left by Michel Aoun whose term expired last month. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced that a seventh vote would be held next Thursday. A total of 112 MPs cast ballots on Thursday, from a total of 128. Independent MP Michel Mouawad received 43  votes and academic Issam Khalifeh received seven. One vote was cast for former MP and presidential candidate Sleiman Frangieh.  Ziad Baroud, a former minister, received three. MP Michel Daher, a non-Maronite who did not submit his candidacy, received one vote, and two ballots were canceled. However, 46 blank votes were cast by Hezbollah. Parliament is split between supporters of Hezbollah and its opponents. 
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Terrorism strikes at the heart of Turkey

Terrorism strikes at the heart of Turkey

Terrorism struck at the heart of Turkey on Sunday afternoon (13 November) At least six people were killed and 81 others injured, two seriously, when an explosion hit Istanbul’s iconic pedestrian street, Istiklal Cadesi, just off the city's Taksim Square. At all times of the day and night crowds congregate in the street. to shop, eat and drink, and often just to watch other people. The street attracts both local people as well as visitors from other parts of Turkey and from across the world, and for many Istiqlal Caddesi represents Istanbul and Turkey's vibrant diversity. An attack on Istiqlal Caddesi is indeed an attack on the heart of Turkey. Turkey has blamed the outlawed Kurdish organisation PKK for the attack.  Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said early Monday that the suspect who had carried out the attack had been captured He said 21 others linked to the bomber were also detained, adding the existing findings showed it was an attack perpetrated by the PKK/YPG terrorist group, referring to a branch of the PKK group in Syria's north. "We have evaluated that the instruction for the attack came from Kobani," Soylu told reporters, adding that the bomber had "passed through Afrin in northern Syria." Turkey has imposed a ban on reporting of the incident, but various sources say that the bomber was a woman.
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Greek and Turkish defence ministers met in Brussels

Greek and Turkish defence ministers met in Brussels

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Greek counterpart Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, met on Thursday (13 October) on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels, amid ongoing tensions between their two countries. The meeting between the two ministers comes as the two countries amid ongoing disagreements between Athens and Ankara on a range of issues, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus, migrant pushbacks and more. Both ministers were in Brussels to attend the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence. The two uneasy NATO neighbors have long-standing sea and air boundary disputes which lead to near-daily air force patrols and interception missions mostly around Greek islands near Turkey's coastline. The situation exacerbated recently as both sides started deploying troops on small islands in the Aegean that up to now have been largely demilitarised.