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x0x Turkish News for the week ending 22 August 2020
[This is a transcript of the news broadcast on 22 August 2020]
Courtesy of Turkish Radio Hour, producer of the
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★ President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan kept Turkey in suspense for several days when he announced earlier that there will be a surprise good news for the Turks.
On Friday he finally announced what the surprise is: Turkey found ample reserves of natural gas in the
Black Sea, he claimed.
Major international news agencies carried the news, but experts think that it is just a ruse to take the attention from the failures of his administration.
By 2013, Mr. Erdoğan said, they will start extracting gas. 2013 is the year that Turks will have a general election, journalist immediately pointed out. They also pointed out that there were nine announcements like this on natural gas, oil, and even coal reserve discoveries just before elections in the past.
The markets did not buy the so-called good news. Just before the announcement Turkish state banks sold massive amounts of dollars to make the Turkish lira to dollar exchange rate
look favorable for the upcoming good news. However, right after Mr. Erdoğan's announcement, the dollar selloff stopped and
the Turkish lira lost more value against the dollar.
★ In related news, VOA reported the following:
Some analysts warn it could take a decade before Turkey fully reaps the rewards of the discovery. The depth of the Black Sea makes extraction challenging and expensive. Production costs are estimated to be as high as several billion dollars, at a time when natural gas prices are at near-record lows because of a supply glut.
"There are a lot of unknowns," said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners. "We don't know how much it's going to cost to extract, what the purity of the gas is, all at a time of record low gas prices."
Turkey spends around $40 billion a year on imported oil and gas. A significant factor behind the Turkish currency's chronic weakness, which hit a record low this month, is that Turkey spends more on imports than exports, causing a large account deficit.
Read more >> here <<
★ Turkey has been also trying to find oil and gas in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, in some cases in disputed waters between Greece and Turkey, and Cyprus and Turkey.
The European Union has been backing up Greece in the disputes. As we reported to you in the past two weeks both Greece and France sent warships to the region.
According to the VOA, the massive American warship, the USS Hershel Woody Williams, has arrived in the Greek island of Crete, on a mission to keep an eye on escalating tensions between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.
Currently chairing the European Union's rotating presidency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been trying to convince Greece and Turkey to enter into negotiations over the conflicting claims each side has to air and sea rights in the region.
Germany has been reluctant to support stiff sanctions against Turkey, but it has advised the government in Turkey to pull back its survey vessel from the disputed waters.
Turkey has said it will continue to survey the contested region through next week.
But the buildup of vessels, submarines and even combat aircraft in the region, has experts fearing an accident that could spark a bigger confrontation between Greece and Turkey.
In a recent incident, Greek Defense Ministry officials said a Greek frigate collided with the rear of a Turkish ship as the Greek vessel moved to intercept it. There was no damage to either vessel but the incident prompted armed forces on both sides to be on heightened alert.
Read more >> here <<
★ Deutsche Welle carried an article titled: "Press freedom in Turkey -- light at the end of the tunnel?"
Istanbul-based press freedom lawyer Veysel Ok penned the article.
Over the past few years, two sentences have been constantly repeated in panels or discussions: That "freedom of the press in Turkey is often limited" and that "journalists in Turkey have been prevented from doing their jobs", Veysel Ok wrote.
"In fact, Turkey has never been a country, where journalists could report freely and speak up fearlessly. Standing before the court or getting prison sentences have always been a part of journalism -- reporters and writers have never witnessed free conditions. I believe those two sentences are not enough to describe today's Turkey. Journalists are not only restrained and prevented from doing their jobs. It goes beyond that: The Turkish state pursues a policy aspiring for the elimination of the free press", Veysel Ok claimed.
"The Turkish constitution, in contrast, gives journalists a broad range of rights, also with regard to free speech. However, the courts and the judges do not enforce them or simply ignore them -- another consequence of the political atmosphere in the country. The guidelines of the European Convention on Human Rights are also ignored."
Veysel Ok says there is still hope:
"For, there are still people resisting and fighting for free information. Despite the pressure, there are still journalists taking the risks keeping up their work. And of course, there are lawyers defending them. Journalists have not given up writing and producing news despite pressure from the judiciary. This is a sign that the government has failed to reach its goal, that the project of controlling journalism has failed.
Read more >> here <<
★ Roger Boyes wrote in the British daily The Times that "Mossad thinks Turkey is a bigger menace than Iran". Mossad is Israel's intelligence agency.
"The man who is given most public credit for negotiating a groundbreaking deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen. He has been talking secretly with fellow spooks in the Gulf states for years, pointing out that they shared a common enemy: Iran", Boyes writes.
"But there was one encounter about 20 months ago when he let slip another agenda. 'Iranian power is fragile,' he reportedly told spymasters from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, 'but the real threat is from Turkey'" he adds.
Boyes thinks that Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's constant search for scapegoats and enemies is leaving him friendless in the region.
"He admires Putin yet seems incapable of imitating Putin's formula of freezing conflicts he cannot win and settling for modest gain. The Kremlin leader deployed just enough force to keep Assad in power, to secure a Russian military base and a Mediterranean port. Erdoğan, it seems, doesn't know the meaning of 'just enough' and has yet to win anything much from his erratic policy of almost-war", Boyes concludes.
★ According to the daily Duvar, President Erdoğan has accused opposition-run municipalities of failing to offer sufficient service for residents, singling out Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality run by Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
İmamoğlu responded to Erdoğan's claims by a video that questioned the necessity of Kanal Istanbul project as such a huge investment could be allocated for the use of real issues of the city.
İmamoğlu inflicted the worst electoral defeat of Erdoğan's political career when he trounced the Justice and Development Party candidate in the Istanbul metropolitan area mayoral elections last year and is now seen by some as a potential contender for president.
The Canal Istanbul project aims to dig a 28-mile canal between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, bypassing the natural waterway Bosporus. The cost of the project is estimated to be at least $11 billion.
Some critics have stated that Turkey aims to bypass the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, to attain greater autonomy
for the passage of military ships (which are limited in number, tonnage, and weaponry) from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.
In 2013, Stratfor characterized the announced $12 billion construction budget and initial operating date of 2023 as being "not realistic for a project of this magnitude."
The city government of Istanbul and local groups are opposed to the project because it would eliminate Lake Durusu, which is used for a fifth of the city's drinking water, and because they expect it will cause overcrowding as the local population increases.
The project has also been criticized for destroying agricultural and forest land and a walking trail, and potentially contaminating groundwater with salt and increasing flooding.
Observers said the plan to charge transit fees to oil and gas tankers is unrealistic as long as
the free passage is guaranteed through the Bosporus.
Along with members of the royal family of Qatar, Berat Albayrak, the Turkish Minister of Finance and son-in-law of President Erdoğan, purchased property along the route, meaning he would personally benefit financially from the resulting real estate development.
★ Speaking of mayors from opposition parties, the Justice and Development Party administration has been removing from office mayors in eastern and southeastern Turkey from the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party, and appointing trustees to run the municipalities, reports the daily Duvar.
The Peoples' Democratic Party has prepared a report on trustees, saying that the ruling Justice and Development Party ignored the votes of millions of people via sacking 47 mayors in the past year.
According to the report, 18 co-mayors were arrested and the appointment of trustees resulted in ignoring the 4.3 million voters who cast their votes in the March 31, 2019 local elections.
The mayoral candidates were allowed to run for office in the elections. However, after winning in the elections, the Justice and Development Party administration claimed that they were associated with the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party.
★ According to Bianet, Turkey continues to record more new coronavirus infections than recoveries.
The Ministry of Health reported confirmed 1,203 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, August 21, bringing the tally to nearly 256 thousand. The death toll reached 6,080 as 22 more people lost their lives.
"The number of recovered patients is less than new patients. The increase in the number of patients in severe condition continues," Ministry of Health Dr. Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.
In related news, The Turkish Medical Association has warned the authorities about the health workers' conditions, saying that they are "running out of energy and patience."
Unions and professional organizations from various parts of the country have been recently reporting an increase in the number of health workers infected with COVID-19.
The Association added that many physicians have retired or resigned due to the Ministry of Health policies.
★ On August 19, local officials in Turkey's Anatolian province of Çorum the death of an 82-year-old man undergoing COVID-19 treatment as resulting from a non-COVID-19 infection, reports the daily Duvar.
The Justice and Development Party administration's official COVID-19 numbers have been the source of nationwide controversy, often deemed to underestimate the actual number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Many experts claim that the undercounting is deliberate, and they estimate that the actual numbers are as much as 10 times higher.
The Turkish Medical Association had slammed the Ministry of health policies that did not attribute COVID-19 patients to coronavirus if they tested negative, even if they were treated for it, reports the daily Duvar.
The duration of the street wedding parties in Ankara has been limited to two hours, while the mass serving of food to wedding attendees has also been banned.
Read more >> here <<
★ Turkish authorities on August 17 announced restrictions on the movement of the senior citizens in the capital Ankara and the Ankara province proper, reports the daily Duvar.
In addition to the senior citizens, those suffering from chronic illnesses will not be able to attend mass gathering events such as weddings, funerals, condolences, and marketplaces.
The measure is aimed at reducing fatalities from the coronavirus.
★ Local Uughur Turks have organized a campaign dubbed "Uyghur Freedom Challenge" to expose brutal treatment under the Chines regime.
The campaign will take place from September 1 to December 31, 2020. It will involve walks by participants around the world.
The website can be reached by searching the
for Uyghur Freedom Challenge.
★ Turkey's Central Bank has kept the policy rate (one-week repo auction rate) constant at its current level of 8.25 percent. Referring to the "uncertainties regarding demand conditions," the Bank has said that "it will continue with its liquidity measures."
The Turkish government says that the inflation rate is about 11% which makes the policy rate negative.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes that high interest rates
are a cause of high inflation rates despite all economists saying that it's the other way around. Most economists are recommending higher interest rates than the inflation rate. They point out that the negative interest rate is causing the Turkish lira to depreciate against the major currencies of the world, with negative consequences for the Turkish economy.
Also, two weeks ago The World Bank issued its latest edition of the Turkey Economic Monitor, in which it pointed to the sharp drop in Turkey's Central Bank reserves.
"The Turkish economy is projected to contract by 3.8 percent in 2020 in the baseline scenario. Important sectors in the Turkish economy are highly vulnerable to COVID-linked economic strains, which could further lower employment, reduce labor force participation and increase the poor population by 1.2 million in 2020," the report read.
★ Turkish Airlines announced that it lost $600 million in the first half or 2020 due to
the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flagship carrier finished the first half of 2019 with $250 million liras in losses, and actual losses in the first half of 2020 surpassed expectations.
The company's shipping costs rose by 90 percent from last year as a result of the dramatic fluctuations in the Turkish Lira's exchange rate against the dollar and the euro.
Meanwhile, income from sales dropped by 96 percent and technical revenue dropped by 61 percent.
EXCHANGE RATE for the U.S. dollar in Turkish Liras: 7.34
High and Low Temperatures in Degrees F, Weather
Ankara, in central Turkey : 84/63 Partly Cloudy
Antalya, on the Mediterranean : 97/81 Mostly Sunny
Erzurum, in Eastern Turkey : 70/48 Thunderstorms
Istanbul, in northwestern Turkey : 84/70 Partly Cloudy
Izmir, on the Aegean : 95/75 Mostly Sunny
Trabzon, on the Black Sea : 82/70 Thunderstorms
Black Sea measured at Trabzon : 75
Marmara Sea measured at Tekirdağ : 77
Aegean Sea measured at İzmir : 76
Mediterranean Sea measured at Antalya : 81
Edited by Ertuğrul Korkmaz
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