The public agenda in Turkey was busy with three main topics as we reached the new year of 2021.
The first topic was the ratification of an extradition treaty between the People’s Republic of China and Turkey.
The extradition treaty caused a public outcry among the exiled Uyghur community in Turkey and among some political circles affiliated with the Uyghur separatist movement.
The second topic was rumors in the media about a possible normalization process between Turkey and Israel. President Erdogan explained the situation after rumors have spread quickly in the media.
The third topic was the ongoing vaccination efforts and the New Year’s Eve lockdowns and other possible lockdowns for the future.
EXTRADITION AGREEMENT BETWEEN TURKEY AND CHINA
Beijing has ratified an extradition treaty with Turkey that worries the exiled Uyghur separatists about the Chinese authorities re-extraditing these individuals if the treaty is adopted by Ankara.
The treaty was first signed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Beijing in 2017, and it was ratified last weekend at the Chinese National People’s Congress, with state media saying it would be used for counter-terrorism purposes.
Turkey has yet to ratify the treaty, and as such, no extraditions are expected any time soon. However, Uyghur separatists are now calling on the Turkish government and lawmakers to stop the agreement from going through.
While saying that they recognize the ‘One China Policy’ and China’s rights to fight against terrorism, the Turkish Foreign Minister had also said that “a distinguishment must be made between an innocent citizen and a terrorist”.
The Uyghur separatist movement began during the later years of Chinese Civil War, and was progressed alongside an Islamic fundamentalist doctrine, since the Turkic minority was overwhelmingly Muslim.
The main source of this separatist movement was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which has been designated as a terrorist group by the UN and by many governments.
Some of these separatists have managed to seek asylum in Turkey since 1952 when the Turkish government offered refuge for those fleeing the Xinjiang region as the People’s Republic of China solidified its power over the region.
RUMORS ON A NORMALIZATION PROCESS BETWEEN TURKEY AND ISRAEL
After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly stated last week that he wants to improve relations with Israel, the Israeli government decided to start a low-profile outreach to Turkey in order to determine whether his intentions are sincere, some Israeli officials have rumored.
President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said on Friday that “If there were no issues at a top level with Israel, our ties could have been very different. We would have liked to bring our ties to a better point,” adding that the two countries continue to share intelligence.
On the other hand, some actions of enthusiasm also came from the Israeli side.
The Israeli charge d’affaires in Turkey hinted at a “possible improvement” in relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv in a farewell letter.
“Our Charge d’Affaires Mr. RoeyGilad will depart from Ankara tomorrow. He penned a letter for you before his departure,” the Israeli Embassy in Ankara posted on Twitter alongside the letter.
In the letter, Roey Gilad wrote: “Towards the end of 2020, we can see even some signs for a possible improvement in the near future.”
Referring to the historical ties between Turkey and Israel, Gilad has said that their relationship had seen ups and downs.
“Even today, as most of you are aware, they are not at their peak. However, during all these 70 years of diplomatic relations, strong connections were established in the trade, economy, culture, and many other fields.”
“With all the challenges and difficulties, it is safe to say that these relations stand on a solid foundation, at the end of the day,” the charge d’affaires added.
The diplomatic ties between the two countries have been strained for over a decade, ever since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident where Israeli Special Forces have landed on a Turkish civilian passenger ship and killed 10 Turkish activists sailing towards Gaza.
VACCINATION EFFORTS AND UPDATES ON THE PANDEMIC
Turkey has imposed lockdowns and restrictions on services such as cafes and restaurants since late November.
A 4-day long lockdown has been put in place for the New Year’s Eve Holiday similar to the regular weekend lockdowns.
Although numbers of new cases and deaths are still high, the results of these measures show that they are finally starting to pay off.
As of January 3rd, the Ministry of Healthcare has recorded 9,877 new cases (1,515 of which are symptomatic) down from 33.198 new daily cases on December 8th, and 193 deaths down from 259 daily deaths on December 23rd.
Two main concerns were on the Turkish public agenda this week in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first was the vaccination plans, which the Health Minister Fahrettin Koca had explained last Wednesday.
The second was the detection of the first case of the new Covid-19 strain, which was first detected in the UK.
According to the Health Minister, Turkey will administer inactive novel coronavirus vaccines in two doses, 28 days apart.
Koca said Turkey would begin 2021, which the World Health Organization named the International Year of Health and Care Workers by vaccinating healthcare workers in its first step towards transitioning to preventive measures against COVID-19.
He said the first batch of 3 million CoronaVac vaccine doses developed by the Chinese company SinoVac had been delivered to the Health Ministry after landing in the capital Ankara earlier on Wednesday.
Analysis of the shipment’s contents have begun, Koca said, explaining that random dose samples had been sent to the laboratories of the country’s public agency on drugs and medical devices.
He said that if the jab passes these tests, it could be approved for emergency use.
“In this process, the vaccines will be distributed to provincial warehouses with specially designed ministry vehicles that have climatization features,” he said.
Koca underlined that authorities would digitally monitor how the vaccines are transported, administered, and recorded, adding that the vaccine distribution and application results would also be shared live in real-time.
On the other hand, Turkey announced its first cases of the UK coronavirus variant on Friday while stressing that all precautionary measures were being taken.
“In the investigations made due to the mutation originating from the UK, mutated viruses were detected in 15 people who entered the country from the UK and the required measures have been adopted,” said Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter.
Entries from the UK to Turkey have been temporarily suspended, he added.
He assured that the people who came in contact with the infected persons have also been quarantined.