Busy diplomacy traffic awaits President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the new year as he is expected to kick off January with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin followed by a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Erdoğan is expected to attend the inauguration ceremony of TurkStream in Istanbul alongside with Putin on Jan. 8. Following the inauguration ceremony, the two leaders are expected to have bilateral meetings as well as meetings between Turkish and Russian delegations. The main topics that are expected to be discussed during these meetings are regional developments, particularly issues in Syria and Libya, alongside issues regarding defense, energy, tourism and other economic sectors.
The Nord Stream project – operational since 2011 with an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters – brings Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The Nord Stream 2, spearheaded by Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom, is nearly completed and has the same annual capacity, running almost parallel to the first pipeline route.
Together, they will meet a quarter of the annual gas demands of the European continent.
Already having launched the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) – which delivers natural gas from Azerbaijan through Turkey and onto Greece, the first stop in its European leg, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) – Turkey is expected to, together with the TurkStream pipeline, play a key role in securing Europe's gas supply.
At the end of January, the president is expected to pay a visit to Germany to attend a political meeting over the Libyan crisis. Yet, the meeting with Merkel is expected to be in Ankara upon a visit by the German chancellor. In the meeting, Turkish and Libyan leaders are expected to have an agenda focused on developments in Syria and Libya, and Turkey's EU membership process as well as the refugee crisis and security problems.
Since the ousting and death of the longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya. Turkey, Qatar and Italy have been allied with Fayez al-Sarraj's government based in Tripoli, while Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces based in eastern Libya, is backed by France, Russia and key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Germany is working with the United Nations to host a conference on Libya by early 2020. Observers hope that international players could exert enough pressure to stop the fighting.
Erdoğan is also expected to pay a series of diplomatic visits to the African continent. Known for launching an African initiative in Turkish diplomacy, the president is expected to go to Morocco, the Gambia and Senegal. The main point of the Africa trip is expected to be the enhancement of the economic relations with the continent's countries as well as the fight against the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people dead and nearly 2,200 injured.
While the Maarif Foundation has representatives in 55 countries, it also made official contact with 99 countries for educational activities. It educates more than 30,000 students at 272 schools in 33 countries. The foundation has also signed protocols with 43 countries and is soon planning to start educational activities. It also runs 36 dormitories in different countries.
FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of the police, military and judiciary. Turkey also expects international cooperation regarding the issue as FETÖ attempts to continue its activities abroad.
Estimated at its peak to be worth $25 billion in 2012, the terror group was considered an economic powerhouse enjoying support from its transnational network of trading companies and businesses. A key element of this vast economic network is the school system operated by the group in the U.S., Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia – virtually everywhere on Earth. The commercial and financial structuring of FETÖ has focused on building schools in African countries, which had been French and British colonies starting from the 18th until the second half of the 20th century.
Establishing educational institutions was the first step in garnering political, economic and bureaucratic influence in countries like Ethiopia or Gabon, which had been struggling with arbitrary legal practices and corruption.
By promising free education for the children of the political elite, high-ranking military officials and bureaucrats, FETÖ tries to access significant and high-level positions in the countries. Thereby, they look to establish a network of high-profile individuals.
Africa, however, is not the only place that the president is expected to visit as the month of February will be the scene for diplomatic trips to Pakistan and Indonesia as well. Erdoğan is expected to have High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council meetings in both countries.
2019 was one of the busiest years for the president so far, as he made several domestic and foreign visits while hosting various world leaders. A total of 19 foreign diplomatic visits took place this year; the first of which was to Russia and the last to Tunisia. The president went to Russia five times in 2019 and visited the U.S. twice. Some of the other countries visited by Erdoğan were Japan, Serbia, Hungary, Qatar, the U.K. and Malaysia.