Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the incumbent President of Turkey. Erdogan assumed office on 28 August, 2014, succeeding former president Abdullah Gul.
Prior to becoming president, Erdogan held the office of Prime Minister of Turkey from 2003 to 2014. He was Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998.
Foreign policy as prime minister
Under Erdogan, Turkey began negotiations in October 2005 to accede to the European Union. These came to a standstill, however, in 2009 and 2010 when Turkish ports refused to allow access to Cypriot ships. Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
In addition, Turkish-Greek relations were normalized during Erdogan's time as prime minister.
Israel-Turkey relations initially peaked during Erdogan's leadership, with the Turkish leader visiting Israel in May 2005, pledging to boost economic ties and offering to serve as a mediator in the peace process. In 2007, Israeli President Shimon Peres became the first Israeli leader to address the Turkish parliament.
Relations severely deteriorated following the 2008-09 Gaza War, known as Operation Cast Lead, with Erdogan storming out of a panel with Shimon Peres at the 2009 World Economic Forum.
In 2010, relations hit a low point following Israel's naval interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla resulting in the death of 10 activists and the wounding of 10 Israeli commandos. Erdogan was vocal in his condemnation, describing the raid as "state terrorism."
Erdogan was chosen as the Turkish AKP party's presidential candidate in the 2014 Turkish elections. He was elected as president in the first round of voting with 51.79% of the vote.
One of the major issues during Erdogan's presidency has been Turkey's proximity to and involvement in the battle against ISIS and Kurdish forces in Syria.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has been attacking both Kurdish fighters of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) and ISIS forces in Syria.
The YPG, backed by the US, have played an important role in fighting ISIS but are considered a threat by Turkey. Ankara considers the YPG to be part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish-Kurdish rebel group seeking independence for several decades.
Turkey has waged war against ISIS forces in Syria and has launched mass arrests on Turkish soil to counter ISIS-affiliated groups.
Since his election as president, Erdogan has also planned to considerably increase the powers of the presidential office and increase the presence of Islam in Turkish life, overturning decades of state secularism implemented by Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Failed coup d'état
The Turkish military attempted on 15 July 2016 to remove Erdogan from power in an alleged coup d'état. The attempt was put down by the following day without a government official being harmed.
Erdogan declared a state of emergency on 20 July in response to the military's actions. This has resulted in mass arrests, limits on the press and internet filtering.
On 16 April 2017, Turkey held a constitutional referendum converting the existing Turkish parliamentary system into an executive presidential republic. The constitutional changes were approved by a small margin, granting Erdogan sweeping new powers.
Although Erdogan demanded the world accept the results of the referendum, it is likely to distance the European Union from Turkey.
Turkey and Israel
Prior to Donald Trump's recognition that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel, Erdogan declared that the city was a "red line for Muslims" and threatened to sever ties with Israel.
"I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran get around international sanctions," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded.
Although Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the Israeli state in 1948, relations between the two countries have been fraught in recent years.
Economic ties have steadily grown in recent years amid a diplomatic rapprochement, providing room for optimism after years of tension following Operation Cast Lead and the raid on the Gaza flotilla.
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