Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 4
By Rufiz Hafizoglu - Trend:
The year 2018 was one of the most memorable in the political and economic life of Turkey. In the country, it is already called the year of economic achievements, but the year 2018 can also be called the year of tourist boom in Turkey.
So, what were the most memorable events of 2018 in the country?
Historical union between Turkish opposition and ruling party
The leader of one of the biggest opposition movements in Turkey, namely, the Nationalist Movement Party Devlet Bahceli refused to nominate a candidate from the party during the presidential election in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
Bahceli added that the Nationalist Movement Party will not nominate a candidate during the presidential election in 2019. He said that the Nationalist Movement Party will support incumbent President Erdogan if he puts forward his candidacy in the election.
Operation Olive Branch
On Jan. 20, Turkey’s Armed Forces, together with the Free Syrian Army, launched the large-scale Operation Olive Branch to dislodge PYD and YPG from Syria’s Afrin city.
Earlier, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said it is estimated that about 8,000-10,000 PYD and YPG terrorists are deployed in Afrin.
F-16 planes of the Turkish Air Force inflicted air strikes on the positions of PYD on the Syrian-Turkish border within the operation. More than 700 terrorists were killed within the Operation Olive Branch and three Turkish servicemen were killed during 12 days.
Commenting on the Operation Olive Branch, President Erdogan said that after the liberation of Syria’s Afrin from PYD and YPG militants, the Turkish armed forces will also launch operations to dislodge terrorists from Manbij.
Historic visit of Erdogan to Vatican
Erdogan visited Vatican at the invitation of Pope Francis. This was the first visit of senior Turkish official to Vatican over the past 59 years at the level of the country’s president.
As part of the visit, the sides discussed the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the so-called Armenian genocide.
Turkey expressed its displeasure to the Vatican over the claims of Armenians in connection with the events of 1915.
Erdogan said that Pope Francis listened to his statements.
"Pope Francis is in solidarity with Turkey on the occasion of the so-called Armenian genocide," Erdogan said.
Turkish army takes control over all settlements along borders of Syria’s Afrin
Operation Olive Branch reached the next stage: Turkish Armed Forces took control over the whole border with Syrian Afrin district.
Turkish army prevented the so-called Syrian National Defense Forces from entering Afrin.
According to Erdogan, about 10 cars with allegedly pro-government forces wanted to enter Afrin. Turkish army opened a preventive fire, forcing intruders to retreat.
Turkish Armed Forces completely liberate administrative center of Afrin
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that the Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army had liberated the administrative center of the Syrian Afrin district from the PYD and YPG terrorists. After the liberation of the administrative center, Turkey sent humanitarian aid to Afrin, and announced beginning of the restoration of the city's infrastructure.
After establishing full control over Afrin, Erdogan said that the Turkish Armed Forces could enter Sinjar in northern Iraq to fight the PKK.
"If the Iraqi government delays the fight against the PKK, Turkey’s Armed Forces will solve this problem rapidly," Erdogan said.
Turkey tests ballistic missiles
Turkey successfully tested the first domestically developed ballistic missiles. The missiles were jointly developed by Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council and the country’s Defense Industries Research And Development Institute.
For the first time they were presented at the IDEF 2017 13th International Defence Industry Fair in Istanbul.
Akkuyu nuclear power plant - dream becomes reality
In early April, the Turkish province of Mersin hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for laying foundation of Turkey's first nuclear power plant "Akkuyu", which was attended by the Presidents of Turkey and Russia - Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Turkish Minister of energy and natural resources Berat Albayrak called the Akkuyu nuclear power plant a 60-year dream of Turkey.
Prior to Vladimir Putin's visit to Ankara, the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency issued a license for the construction of the first unit of nuclear power plant "Akkuyu". The agreement on the construction of Akkuyu NPP was signed on May 12, 2010 in Ankara between the Russian and Turkish governments, and on December 13 of the same year Akkuyu Nuclear JSC was registered. The Akkuyu NPP project involves the construction of four power units with Russian WWER-1200 reactor plants of 3+ generation that meet the highest post-Fukushima safety standards. The capacity of each unit will be 1200 MW. The cost of the project is estimated at $20 billion.
Central Bank of Turkey withdraws its gold reserves from the US
The Central Bank of Turkey transferred to Turkey its gold reserves, previously stored in the US Federal Reserve System. The total amount of gold reserves held by the Central Bank of Turkey in the United States was 220 tons.
Turkey also plans to increase the country's gold reserves through the sale of old cars. To this end, local municipalities will sell abandoned or confiscated cars, and the proceeds from the sale of these cars will be placed in state banks, and later sold for gold.
Turkey holds early parliamentary and presidential election
The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli put forward an initiative of holding early parliamentary and presidential election in Turkey on April 17, 2018. Bahceli proposed to hold early elections on August 26, 2018. The next day, President Erdogan, following a meeting with Bahceli, said that early parliamentary election is necessary for Turkey, andthe election date was set for June 24, 2018. This statement by Erdogan was a surprise to Turkey's political parties.
Erdogan also said that the early election in Turkey is a cautionary step against the forces that intend to destabilize the country.
In turn, the Turkish parliament on April 20 approved a new date for early election. Some 386 deputies out of 537 voted for the early parliamentary and presidential election, and the election was held on June 24.
Opening ceremony of Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline
On June 12, the opening ceremony of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) was held in Turkey with the participation of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as other presidents.
“The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) is another victory of Turkey and Azerbaijan,” said President Aliyev.
“We in Azerbaijan are very glad for Turkey’s success under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has turned into a great power as a result of President Erdogan’s tireless activity,” said President Aliyev.
The president noted that Turkey is a country which determines the world agenda.
TANAP opening ceremony in Turkey was one of the most significant events in June.
”The West will understand the importance of solidarity between Turkey and Azerbaijan when it receives gas through the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP),” President Erdogan said.
Erdogan wins presidential election
On June 24, 2018, parliamentary and presidential elections were held in Turkey. As is known, there was always a high voter turnout during the election in Turkey. On June 24, voter turnout was 87 percent. Erdogan gathered 52.82 percent of the votes in the presidential election.
Muharrem Ince from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) garnered 30.68 percent of the votes, Meral Aksener from the Good Party (Iyi Parti) - 7.44 percent, Selahattin Demirtas from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) - 7.44 percent, Temel Karamollaoglu from the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) - 0.89 percent and Dogu Perincek from the Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi) - 0.2 percent.
As for the parliamentary election, the political bloc called People's Unity (Cumhur Ittifaki) of Justice and Development Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) gained 53.8 percent of the votes, the bloc called People's Alliance (Millet Ittifaki) with the participation of CHP, Saadet Partisi and Iyi Parti garnered 34.07 percent, and HDP got 11.08 percent of the votes. The remaining parties gained 1.04 percent of the votes.
Thus, the Justice and Development Party is represented in the country's parliament with 293 MPs, MHP with 49 MPs, CHP with 146 MPs, Iyi Parti with 46 MPs, and HDP with 66 MPs.
Saadet Partisi and Vatan Partisi are not represented in the parliament of the country.
Turkey, Netherlands restore diplomatic relations
Turkey and the Netherlands decided to restore diplomatic relations. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok wrote a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Cavusoglu called his Dutch counterpart. During the phone conversation, the ministers agreed to normalize the diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey.
The ministers agreed to reinstate ambassadors in Ankara and The Hague shortly. The Dutch minister of foreign affairs paid an official visit to Turkey in the second half of 2018.
The relations between Turkey and the Netherlands deteriorated in March 2017 after the cancellation of the visit of Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to the Netherlands. The minister planned to attend a rally in the city of Rotterdam to inform Turks residing in that country about the constitutional amendments to be put to a referendum on April 16 in Turkey.
After that, in March 2017, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced as undesirable the return to the country from vacation of the ambassador of the Netherlands. The Dutch Foreign Ministry officially withdrew its ambassador from Turkey in February 2018.
Murder of Saudi reporter in Istanbul
On Oct. 2, Jamal Khashoggi, known for his criticism of the policies of Riyadh, disappeared when he visited the consulate general of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, where he came to obtain documents for registration of marriage with a Turkish citizen. A few days later, the Turkish police launched an investigation into his disappearance.
On Oct. 20, the Saudi authorities reported that Khashoggi was killed as a result of a conflict in the Consulate General.
Prosecutor General of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Saud al-Mujib said 18 nationals of the country were under investigation, whose identities weren't revealed.
Commenting on this fact, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that Turkey has a lot of new facts regarding the murder of the Saudi journalist, but, at the same time, Turkey considers it premature make all the information public.
Erdogan noted that Jamal Khashoggi's murder is not an ordinary crime. The president also noted that 18 people are suspected of murdering Khashoggi and the Saudi authorities should investigate the case.
New airport opens in Istanbul
The opening ceremony of a new airport took place in Istanbul on Oct. 29. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Minister of Transport and Infrastructure of Turkey Mehmet Cahit Turhan took part in the ceremony.
The third airport was built near the Lake Terkos in northern Istanbul.
The first airport in Turkey was built in 1912 and was used for military purposes.
In 1953, Istanbul airport was opened for international flights for the first time, and in 1985 it was renamed in honor of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Opening of STAR oil refinery
The opening of the STAR oil refinery, owned by Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR, took place in Turkey on Oct. 19.
The STAR refinery produces naphtha, diesel with ultra-low sulfur content, aviation fuel, petroleum coke, liquefied gas and other products. The refinery doesn't produce gasoline and fuel oil.
The plant is planned to carry out processing of oil of such grades as Azeri Light, Kerkuk and Urals.
The share distribution in the project is as follows: 60 percent of shares are owned by the Rafineri Holding (in 100-percent possession of SOCAR Turkey Energy), which previously bought all 18.5 percent of the participation interest of Turcas Petrol in the project, and 40 percent of shares are owned by SOCAR.
Erdogan declares start of new military operation in Syria
On Dec. 12, 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey's Armed Forces will launch a new military operation within three days in northern Syria against PYD/YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist organization.
"Despite that the US has promised Turkey that they would not support PYD/YPG, the Syrian wing of the PKK, the US did not keep its word," Erdogan said.
On Dec. 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump declared victory over the "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria. Later, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the US has begun to withdraw troops from Syria, but a victory over the IS does not mean the end of the coalition.
Reuters, citing sources, reported that all US State Department employees would be evacuated from Syria within 24 hours and the armed forces would be withdrawn within 60 to 100 days.
Commenting on this fact, Erdogan said that the beginning of the withdrawal process forced Turkey to postpone the start of a new military operation in Syria.
Turkey creating national space agency
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ratified the law on the creation of a national space agency. The agency will operate under the Ministry of Industry and Technology of Turkey. The project to create a national space agency in Turkey is the second largest after the construction of the shipping channel in Istanbul. The headquarters of the agency will be located in Ankara.
In February 2017, the draft law on the establishment of the National Space Agency was submitted to the Turkish Parliament for consideration.
The government of Turkey announced the creation of the National Space Agency for the first time in January 2016.
Rufiz Hafizoglu, deputy editor-in-chief of Trend, Follow him on Twitter: @rhafizoglu