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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 23 May 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 23 May 2020]

Courtesy of Turkish Radio Hour, producer of the

TURKISH CULTURAL PROGRAM, every Saturday from 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.

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★ According to a statement by the office of the Turkish president, Turkey's president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Trump had a telephone conversation on Saturday.

  The two presidents discussed the situation in Libya and Syria and said that they would continue to work for stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

  They also agreed to continue close military and political cooperation.

  Turkey is also at odds with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates over its oil exploration near Cyprus and its military involvement in Libya and Syria.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to official figures published by Turkey's Ministry of Health on Saturday, the number of coronavirus infections reached 156,000 and deaths 4300.

  Medical experts and statisticians say that the Turkish government significantly underreports both the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

  In related news, Turkey's Public Hygiene Councils in 25 provinces imposed compulsory use of facemasks in public, reports Bianet.

  Also, the medical journal Lancet published a study that links Turkey's favored coronavirus infection treatment with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to sudden deaths. Starting in March, the Turkish government granted licenses to two Turkish pharmaceutical companies to manufacture these drugs.

★ According to the Anatolia news agency, Turkey's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for European Union Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakçı said: "coronavirus crisis brought Turkey and the European Union closer and demonstrated what Turkey can do in a crisis time for the good and benefit of us all in Europe ".

  Ambassador Kaymakçı's remarks came during a video discussion with the head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey Christian Berger on Turkey's relations with the 27-member bloc.

  Turkey applied for the European Union membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections by the Greek Cypriot administration, Germany and France.

  The European Union has accused and criticized Turkey for human rights violations and deficits in the rule of law.

★ Turkish Airlines said it is extending the suspension of all its flights into June due to the coronavirus outbreak, reports the See News.

  Turkish Airlines will ground domestic flights until June 4, while suspending international flights until June 10, the Turkish flag carrier said in a notice on Wednesday.

  Previously, the carrier said that it will suspend all flights until May 28.

★ Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Japanese prime minister Mr. Shinzo Abe opened a hospital in Istanbul this week, reports the Japan Times. Mr. Erdoğan was physically present at the ceremony, Mr. Abe joined it with a video link.

  The facility is named Başakşehir Çam and Sakura City hospital. Japan's trading house Sojitz Corporation supplied part of the funds.

  The hospital has over 2600 beds, compared with about 1400 at Fujita Health University Hospital, Japan's largest.

  The Istanbul facility also has about 400 intensive care unit beds, one of the highest among hospitals in Europe. It has partially opened in April and started accepting coronavirus patients.

  On its name, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan said in a speech Monday that "çam", which means pine in Turkish, and "sakura", or cherry blossom in Japanese, are symbols of Turkey and Japan respectively, stressing the hospital was created as a result of cooperation between the two countries.

★ According to Salim Çevik of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, the recent emergence of two splinter parties from the Justice and Development Party points to a deepening crisis within the party and growing discontent toward party leader and president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

  The importance of both parties relies on their potential to attract votes from the Justice and Development Party base. In a country that is deeply divided into two almost equal-sized camps that support Erdoğan and oppose him, even a small fraction of voters shifting from the Justice and Development Party to the opposition can be a game-changer. It may cause Mr. Erdoğan's ruling party to lose the next elections. Sensing the gravity of the threat, President Erdoğan is heavily attacking both parties, Dr. Çevik writes.

  Currently, the ruling conservative-nationalist People's Alliance, comprised of the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party, and the opposing Nation Alliance, composed of the secularist Republican People's Party and the centrist-nationalist Good Party dominate the political system.

  Read more >> here <<

★ In related news, on May 20 the Middle East Studies Association, a US-based organization, wrote an open letter to Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and expressed the "grave concern" of the organization members in the closure of Istanbul Şehir University and demanded "the reversal of actions that attacked the independence of the University and economic freedoms of its faculty and students".

  Ahmet Davutoğlu, one of the splinter parties that we mentioned in the previous news, is the founder of the University. President Erdoğan's administration's closing of the University is claimed to be due to his acrimony with Dr. Davutoğlu. At the time of its founding, Mr. Erdoğan gave strong backing to the University.

  The Middle East Studies Association letter said: "Today, despite its considerable achievements, your government insists on framing the university exclusively through the lens of your personal relationship with Davutoğlu, whom you dismissed as Prime Minister in 2016. "

★ Turkish president Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed Turkish Navy chief Cihat Yaycı at the request of defense minister Mr. Hulusi Akar. Mr. Akar is a retired general.

  Türker Ertürk, a retired Turkish admiral, claimed that Mr. Erdoğan saw Cihat Yaycı as a threat to himself.

  In December president Erdoğan praised Adm. Yaycı for his work on Turkey's Libya policy and devising a maritime deal with Libya.

  Adm. Yaycı was a student between 1992-1995 at the Monterey Naval postgraduate school.

★ According to the Anatolia news agency, in Turkey's third-largest metropolitan area Izmir authorities arrested a woman for insulting religious values.

  Allegedly the woman had arranged the Italian revolutionary song "Bella Ciao" broadcast through the minarets of several mosques.

  Read more >> here <<

★ According to Turkish news site Gerçek Gündem, a Turkish government site is now allowing Turkish citizens to change their religious affiliations on official documents online.

  In the past Turkish citizens were required to apply to a government directorate to be able to do that.


★ Metal Bulletin website: Turkey's steel billet prices rise due to higher offers from the Commonwealth of Independent States.

★ Bonds and Loans website: As Turkey braces For the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the banking sector looks likely to be called to play a larger role in facilitating the government's stimulus plans. But despite a recent spike in NPLs and foreign exchange pressures, the risks to the country's banks appear manageable, according to a recent report by Oleksiy Soroka, a Senior High Yield Credit Strategist at the Dutch bank ING.

★ Global Capital website: İşbank, Turkey's largest private bank by assets, is the latest financial institution from the country to refinance its existing debt while managing to maintain competitive margins. The loan is for $798.5 million.

★ The rating agency Fitch downgraded foreign-owned banks in Turkey from stable to negative on Wednesday, a statement from the agency announced.

  The agency said that Turkey's weakening external finances are increasing the risk of government intervention in the banking sector. An intervention, the agency wrote, will impede the ability of banks to service their foreign-currency obligations.


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