A Turkish court on October 12 freed from house arrest a US pastor whose case had severely strained ties between Washington and Ankara—NATO allies.

Pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in 2016 and convicted on terrorism charges in relation with a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Brunson has denied the charges.

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For several years, Turkey has been hosting the world’s largest refugee population. This report, “Toward Long-Term Solidarity with Syrian Refugees? Turkey’s Policy Response and Challenges,” takes a comprehensive look at the policies, actors and issues that have characterized Turkey’s approach to Syrian refugees since 2011. In this age of mass refugee flows, Turkey distinguishes itself from other countries for demonstrating both financial and organizational capacities, as well as a strong political will to welcome refugees. Open door, camps and temporary protection have been at the core of Turkey’s approach. But an uninterrupted inflow of refugees, as well as a complicated foreign and domestic political environment, has put some limitations on Turkey’s welcome. And Turkey’s praised policy put in place in 2014-2015 has been slowly dismantled over time (with the sidelining of camps, the closing of the border, the limitation on freedom of movement for Syrians, early returns, possible push backs, etc.), and a new sense of direction now needs to be put in place.

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This article was originally published in the Summer 2018 edition of The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. An excerpt is published here with permission.

The Syrian civil war, which began seven years ago, has had an ongoing deep and tragic impact on Syrians. Half a million lost their lives and 11.5 million were displaced. Of those displaced, more than six million became internal refugees and over 5.6 million fled to neighboring countries. Sharing a 911-km border with Syria, Turkey became the country most affected by the migratory movement of Syrian refugees. For the first four years of the war, Turkey handled the crisis on its own without much international support and assistance. Today, it is much harder to do that. Turkey has become the world’s largest refugee-hosting nation and a permanent home to more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees living there, in comparison to 986,000 in Lebanon and 66,000 refugees in Jordan. 

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On August 8, US President Donald J. Trump announced the doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, escalating the tension between the two NATO countries that has reached a boiling point over the last several weeks.

In his announcement, the American president said, “our relations with Turkey are not so good at this time!” The new tariffs follow the sanctioning of the Turkish interior and justice ministers on July 31.

The Turkish lira tumbled following Trump’s announcement and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked Turkish citizens to convert any US dollars and gold into lira to help the country in its “national struggle.”

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This piece is part of a two-part series on current US-Turkey relations. See the other piece here.

There was a time when Turkish people mourned together with the people of the United States, such as when John F.  Kennedy was killed, or when they fought shoulder to shoulder together during the Korean War. How did such a great alliance turn into a cold shoulder?

The historically strong US-Turkey relationship has been tested in recent years by a seemingly never-ending series of disagreements and crises. After each development, commentators claim again and again that US-Turkey relations have never been so bad. Each point of conflict seems to make relations that much worse and the recent sanctions on two Turkish ministers have initiated a new wave of such claims. So far, relations have remained resilient and a meeting on August 3 between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu is a testament to the two NATO allies’ ability to maintain dialogue despite increasing tensions.

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Twin billion dollar tenders in 2017 showcase Turkey’s renewable energy potential

In 2017 Turkey has made tremendous strides in the development of its renewable energy sector, notably the allocation of over two billion dollars for the production of wind and solar energy. These sources of funding, or tenders, are part of Ankara’s ambitious plans for the future of renewables, outlined and set forth in the context of its 2023 goals—a holistic set of economic growth targets to commemorate the Republic of Turkey’s centennial.

To analyze Turkey’s plans for increasing its renewable energy sources, it is necessary to understand its motives in the context of the larger energy strategy. Ankara primarily aims to achieve greater energy independence and security and decrease the economic burden of energy imports which make up around half of Turkey’s total trade deficit. The increased sustainability and environmental benefits of using renewable resources are secondary bonuses.

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Speakers at the Atlantic Council’s Istanbul Summit on April 27 emphasized the importance of strengthening transatlantic bonds to the Middle East with the goal of jointly addressing challenges and harnessing opportunities.

“We all need each other, and we are strong when we can work together, and pull in the same direction, and address the many challenges in the three regions,” said John Bass, the US ambassador to Turkey.

“We’ve got some differences in the meantime, but how we deal with those differences… is an essential piece of what we do,” he added.

This sentiment reflected the theme of this year’s summit: Strengthening Transatlantic Engagement with a Turbulent Region.

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Donald Trump’s electoral victory has been welcomed in pro-government circles in Turkey. This is not surprising when one takes into account the US president-elect’s past comments on Turkey and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Following the attempted coup in Turkey in July, Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, described Erdoğan as a strong leader and credited him with rallying his supporters to fend off the putschists. He also emphasized the larger role Turkey can play in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

In his comments on Trump’s victory, Erdoğan said that “a new era has begun in the United States” and added that he hoped that the American people’s choice of Trump will “bring favorable developments.”

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At Istanbul summit, European leaders lay out plans to diversify energy sources

Energy security was the main theme of the remarks by Albania’s Prime Minister and Croatia’s President at the Atlantic Council’s seventh Energy & Economic Summit in Istanbul on Nov. 19.

“Energy security has become a challenge for all of Europe, thus the efforts to diversify the sources in the Balkans and beyond should be shared,” said Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

“The energy union in the Balkans, it is today, very clearly a commitment to fundamental and lasting change for our region and the whole of Europe,” he added.

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Three recent events in and around Turkey raise concerns about this country's direction for the United States and its European allies.

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