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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 15 August 2020

[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 15 August 2020]

Courtesy of Turkish Radio Hour, producer of the

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★ According to Al Jazeera, President Trump and his Turkish counterpart Mr. Erdoğan talked on the phone on Thursday and discussed a demilitarized zone in Libya.

  The two leaders' phone call occurred after U.S. ambassador to Libya Richard Norland visited the Turkish capital Ankara on Wednesday.

  The U.S. Embassy in Libya tweeted that Ambassador Norland consulted with senior Turkish officials about the urgent need to support Libyan voices genuinely seeking an end to the conflict and return to UN-facilitated political dialogue, with full respect for Libya's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

  Turkey has sent military aid and personnel to the Libyan government fighting against a rebel general. The rebel general is getting support from Russians, Egyptians, and several Arab countries.

  Read the tweet >> here <<

★ According to Deutsche Welle, Greece on Monday accused NATO ally Turkey of "threatening peace" in the eastern Mediterranean after Turkey resumed searching for oil and gas near the remote Greek island of Kastellorizo.

  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged respect for international law during his conversation with Mitsotakis. He said that the situation must be resolved in a spirit of Allied Solidarity and accordance with international law.

  "Let us all come together as Mediterranean countries and find a formula that protects all of our rights," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday in a national address after a meeting with his ministers, striking a comparatively conciliatory tone.

  Both Greece and Turkey are NATO members.

  However, on Friday President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned Greece will pay a "heavy price" if Turkey's gas exploration vessel in the eastern Mediterranean is attacked.

  Erdoğan's remarks come after unconfirmed reports in Greek media that a vessel from Greece hit a Turkish ship escorting the Oruc Reis. The Greek Defense Ministry denied attacking the Turkis ship, with a ministry spokesperson telling AFP: "No incident happened."

  France also decided to send an additional naval vessel to the area in a show of support for Greece. Greek and French military then had a drill on Thursday.

  In related news, a spokesman from the United States Department of Defence expressed concern over "some of the incidents that have taken place in the Mediterranean," during a press briefing on Thursday.

  Assistant to the Secretary of Defence for Public Affairs Jonathan Rath Hoffman said Turkey and France were "both incredibly important NATO allies, and we would like to see the tensions lowered", reports the VOA.

  A few other headlines on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean:

  Forbes had an article titled: "Turkey is up against some formidable navies in the eastern Mediterranean".

  Writing in the British daily The Times Hannah Lucinda Smith said "Old rivals are skirting dangerously close to conflict over natural resources close to the island beauty spot of Kastellorizo".

  Defense News carried an article titled "Congress has secretly blocked U.S. arms sales to Turkey for nearly 2 years".

★ In the Forbes, Paul Iddon wrote about Turkey's aging fighter Jets and where they can get new ones.

  Pointing out that Turkeys fighter jet fleet consists entirely of fourth-generation U.S. built F-16 fighting Falcons an older F-4 Phantom IIs, it talks about Turkish efforts to modernize the jet fleet.

  Turkey was planning to buy 5th generation F 35 fighter's which is under development, but it has been kicked out of the program due to President Erdoğan's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system.

  U.S. is saying Turkey has to decommission the S 400 system to be able to buy F 35's. NATO and U.S. officials claim that S 400 can spy on F 35's.

  Turkey is trying to build its own jet but it won't be operational until the 2030s.

  Turkey is contemplating Russian 4.5 generation SU 35's, however, that will further strained relations with U.S. and NATO.

  Given Turkey's president rivalry with France, Turkey also cannot get any French planes, Paul Iddon writes.

  One option for Turkey could be to purchase Euro Fighter Typhoons from the United Kingdom.

  However, with Mr. Erdoğan's anti-West policies, that may be unlikely.

  One likely scenario is that Turkey may be isolated like Iran from purchasing modern jets.

  But if Mr. Erdoğan loses and a non-Islamist Turkish government emerges in 2021 elections, there can be reconciliation with the U.S. and NATO.

★ An article in The Economist said that the reclusive cleric Fethullah Gülen shares blame for Turkey's plight. Gülen has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999 on self-exile. However, his supporters were instrumental in getting the current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's rise to power, and later consolidate power. The Economist article said that "the exiled Imam did much to cripple democracy".

  Initially "joined by hip", Gülenists and Erdoğan followers started fighting. The fighting culminated in a coup attempt in the summer of 2016 in Turkey. Most people including the Turkish president and his followers believe that Gülen and his followers orchestrated the failed coup.

  Since then the Erdoğan administration has investigated hundreds of thousands of Gülen supporters and jailed nearly 100,000. In some cases, the Erdoğan regime blamed anybody and everybody in the opposition to be a Gülen follower and jailed some of these opponents.

  However, even Mr. Erdoğan's bitter opponents do not like Gülen and his followers, writes The Economist.

  Read more >> here <<

★ President Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party has been pushing religious education for decades.

  Mr. Erdoğan converted many non-religious schools to religious ones in the past two decades.

  A survey conducted by a religious foundation found that 73% of the graduates of these religious schools say that they are unhappy with their education, if they had to do it over again they wouldn't choose these religious schools.

  68% of the current students also said that they were unhappy in studying these religious schools.

  President Erdoğan is a graduate of one of these schools.

★ According to Bianet, after the United Arab Emirates' deal to normalize ties with Israel, Turkey may downgrade its relations with the Emirates, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on August 14.

  Erdoğan said Israel's "latest steps towards Palestine were unacceptable."

  In the meantime, Turkey's foreign affairs ministry accused the United Arab Emirates of "betraying the Palestinian cause for its narrow interests," adding that the peoples of the region will never forget and forgive its "hypocritical behavior."

★ COVID-19 infections started increasing in Turkey again. Turkey's health minister Dr. Fahrettin Koca said "our fears might come true".

  The number of seriously ill patients keeps increasing, new cases exceed recoveries, reports Bianet.

  In related news, Bianet wrote that on August 13 Turkey's Ministry of Health has announced that coronavirus death toll has risen to 5,912 and the total number of cases to 245,635.

  In comparison, California which has one half of Turkey's population, and has better medical facilities have reported over 11,000 deaths and over 610,000 infections.

  On August 14th, the Turkish Medical Association issued a report and said that there are 10 times more infections in Turkey than the Ministry of Health reports. The Association maintains that the government does not report all infections and deaths.


★ Deutsche Welle carried an article titled "Why the Turkish lira is in free fall". According to the article, the Turkish currency has hit record lows against the euro and US dollar, despite efforts by its central bank to stop the rot. The fall comes as the effects of the global pandemic and poor economic policy converge.

  "The [Turkish] president's "good intentions" to lift the economic boat, however, fueled a credit binge that saw loan growth rise 40% in the past three months, peaking in May at 50%, the fastest rate growth since 2008.

  "The explosion of credit, including cheaper loans to households and businesses, has been stoking domestic inflation that was already standing at 11.76% in July year over year. At the same time, the need for foreign currencies rose in line with rising imports, weakening the Turkish currency even further." Deutsche Welle adds.

  Read more >> here <<

★ Chris Miller wrote in the Foreign Policy Magazine that Turkey's president Erdoğan "has hidden and economic disaster in Turkish banks".

  "Erdoğan is not usually known as an economic innovator. But for the past year, his government has been running a high-stakes economic experiment. The test: How long can Turkey hide the fact that it is spending far beyond its means? Normally when governments spend more than they tax, the difference appears as a budget deficit. They fund that deficit by issuing bonds, which are traded on international markets and so are easy to track. If the debt load grows too large, and if borrowing costs spike, then the country must default or seek a bailout. This type of debt crisis isn't pleasant, as Argentina or Greece or Pakistan could attest, but it is at least straightforward and familiar", Miller adds.

  "Turkey has also spent well more than it should, but it has done so in a way that hid the costs deep in its financial system, leaving them invisible to all but the most committed financial sleuths. "

  "The path ahead is strewn with risks. Let the lira fall, and Turkish companies with dollar debts will struggle to pay them back. A steep decline in the lira could even make Turkey's banks go bust. Hike interest rates, and currency might stabilize, but the economy would be thrown into a deeper recession, exacerbating the coronavirus slump and denting Erdoğan's popularity. Both options are dangerous. But doing nothing is probably worse: The lira will fall anyway, and the economy will sink into a prolonged recession, too. Erdoğan's economic experiment was interesting while it lasted, generating a false sense of stability. But hiding the country's economic problems deep in the banking system was never more than a temporary cover-up." Miller concludes.

  Chris Miller is an assistant professor at the Fletcher School, the Eurasia director at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and the author of Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia


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