-Hopes for an improvement in Turkey-Germany relations plagued by a number of contentious issues over the past two years tackled at Turkish prime minister’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last week. Ms. Merkel said she saw many hurdles in the way of normalization of ties. In an interview before the meeting, the Turkish prime minister spoke very positively about turning a new page on the strained relations.
-The court ordered the release of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel held for more than a year without charge, which could remove a major hurdle to repairing ties between Ankara and Berlin. Germany, home to a three-million-strong ethnic Turkish minority, has strongly criticised Mr. Erdogan’s rights record, especially after a mass crackdown in response to a failed coup against him in July 2016. Mr. Yucel gave himself up to police on February 14, 2017 after initially taking refuge inside a German diplomatic compound in Istanbul when media reported an arrest warrant had been issued against him. He has been in custody ever since. The day after Prime Minister’s statement Deniz Yucel returned to Germany after release from jail in Turkey.
– A Turkish court in Istanbul sentenced six prominent journalists including Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak to aggravated life in prison over alleged links to a failed coup attempt in 2016, disregarding calls for their release in the face of lack of a substantial evidence. The verdicts spurred an outpour of international criticism from media watchdogs and rights organizations. The aggravated life sentence means they will be in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours per day, without parole, and with limited visits from outside. The Constitutional Court had in January ruled that the rights of Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Şahin Alpay had been violated. However, the lower court hearing the case refused to apply the ruling and subsequently overruled it, prompting deeper concerns about the rule of law in Turkey.
– U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Thursday amid an ensuing tension between Turkey and the U.S. over the Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria and the American backing of Syrian Kurdish militia. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month accused Washington of sending in 5,000 truckloads of weapons to the YPG in Syria, as well as 2,000 planeloads of arms. On Thursday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey would fight the U.S. if it fights alongside with the YPG in a possible Turkish operation. An expansion of Turkish offensive raises the specter of an unwitting confrontation between the Turkish and the U.S. forces in Manbij.
– President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 17 said Turkey’s ongoing operation in the northwestern Syrian district of Afrin against the YPG is approaching “victory” with each passing day. The president stated that the Turkish military has so far brought under control 300 square kilometers during the Afrin operation.