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38 - Relations with Turkey on regional issues

Grade: C+
Unity 3/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 2/5
Total 10/20
Scorecard 2015: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (10/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2012: C+ (9/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: C- (7/20)

Turkey actively supported efforts to oust Assad while also fighting the Kurds, but its focus on ISIS was limited

Turkey joined the international coalition against ISIS in 2015, although Turkey’s targeting of the group was limited. Much of its military engagement has instead focused on fighting the Kurds. Turkey has been accused of profiting from trade in oil and weapons with ISIS, though Ankara has firmly rejected these allegations.

Intelligence cooperation between France, Germany, the UK, and Turkey intensified during 2015, and focused on potential ISIS recruits travelling into Syria and fighters travelling into Turkey and on to the EU. Cooperation became particularly important for the EU following the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

Turkey continued to support anti-Assad rebel groups in Syria and took part in the talks on Syria during the second half of 2015. Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet caused relations with Russia to deteriorate substantially, which further complicated efforts to find a solution to the Syria conflict. Russia took a range of counter-measures against Turkey, including sanctions. NATO came out in support of its ally but called for calm.

The peace process with the Kurds broke down in July as fighting resumed between government forces and the PKK, which remains on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. The PKK was largely motivated by the government’s reluctance to pursue pro-Kurdish reforms, and by disagreements on the format of the peace talks. Ankara subsequently carried out military strikes against the Kurds in Iraq and south-east Turkey.

Thanks to positive domestic political developments on both sides of the Cyprus conflict, UN-brokered talks resumed in May. Substantial progress was made in the negotiations during the second half of 2015 and numerous observers expressed optimism that an agreement on reunification could become a reality in 2016. By the end of 2015, however, it was clear that numerous thorny issues remained. Turkey supported the resumption of talks and took some positive steps, such as completing a fresh-water pipeline to the island and expressing willingness to allow access for Greek Cypriots.