Turkey | Turkey Takes on Bigger Role on the World Stage
- Turkey Main Page
- A New Republic and President
- Oppression of Kurds and Kurdish Culture and Deadly Clashes
- Terrorism; Attempts to Improve the Government
- Improvements for Civil Rights and the Secular Movement
- Turkey Takes on Bigger Role on the World Stage
- 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Turkey
- Relations Between Syria and Turkey Deteriorate
- PKK Leader Declares Cease-fire
- Israel Formally Apologies to Turkey for 2010 Commando Raid
- Anti-Government Protests Call for Erdogan's Resignation
- Erdogan Elected President
- Turkey Initially Resists the Fight Against ISIS but Changes Course
Turkey Takes on Bigger Role on the World Stage
In May 2010, as the U.S. and other members of the Security Council were negotiating the language and terms of a fourth round sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium and refusing to open its facilities to weapons inspectors, Iran agreed to send 2,640 pounds of enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for uranium enriched to 20% that can be used in a reactor that creates isotopes for medical use—a deal strikingly similar to the one Iran reneged on in October 2009. Turkey and Brazil brokered the agreement. Both countries were criticized for interfering with the sanctions process and accused of attempting to increase their presence on the world stage.
In late May 2010, an activist group, Free Gaza Now, and a Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi, sent a flotilla of aid to Gaza, a violation of a blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed on Gaza in 2007. The move was an apparent attempt to further politicize the blockade. In the early hours of May 31, Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, and there are conflicting accounts of what happened next. The Israelis say the commandos were attacked with clubs, rods, and knives, and that they fired upon the activists in retaliation; the activists say the commandos opened fire when they landed on deck. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the conflict.
In a September 2010 referendum, voters approved several constitutional changes that will give Parliament increased oversight of the judiciary and the military, diminishing the power of both and introducing wider democratic freedoms to Turkey's citizens. The vote, 58% to 42%, was considered a referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Erdogan.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a third term in June 2011. Voter turnout was 84.5% in a general election that gave the ruling party 326 seats in parliament—41 seats shy of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the country's constitution unilaterally. The secular Republican People's Party (CHP) had 26% of vote and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 13%. In his victory speech, Mr. Erdogan pledged to work with opposition parties, which criticized him before the election for his divisive ruling style.
The publication in September 2011 of a UN report on the attack on the Turkish flotilla further frayed relations between Turkey and Israel. The report concluded that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal but that Israel used "excessive and unreasonable" force when boarding the ships. It also called on Israel to apologize and compensate victims. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said he would not issue a statement of regret. In response, Turkey ejected the Israeli ambassador and severed defense ties with Israel.
In October, PKK militants killed two dozen Turkish troops near the border with Iraq. In response, Turkey launched a large-scale offensive, deploying about 10,000 troops and warplanes into Kurd strongholds in northern Iraq. Tension had been building for months, with the militants increasing their attacks.