Turkey country brief


Located in south-eastern Europe, Turkey borders the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Georgia, and the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas between Greece and Syria. Its population of 76.5 million (2013) is predominantly Sunni Muslim, with the main ethnic groups being Turkish (70 per cent), Kurdish (18 per cent) and others (12 per cent).  The capital of Turkey is Ankara.

Bilateral Relations

Australia and Turkey established formal bilateral relations in 1967.  Australia has an embassy in Ankara and a consulate-general in Istanbul.  In 2006, Australia also established a consulate in Çanakkale (the province in which Gallipoli is located) to provide consular assistance to the growing number of Australians who visit the Anzac battle sites each year.

Australia and Turkey have a close and productive relationship, with substantial dialogue across a wide range of issues, frequent high-level visits and expanding bilateral trade and investment.   Both Australia and Turkey regard the 1915 Gallipoli landings as an event of particular significance in their modern histories.  Every year a large number of Australian and Turkish citizens attend commemorative services at Gallipoli.  The 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign will be commemorated jointly by Turkey and Australia in 2015.

Turkey is hosting the G20 in 2015, following Australia's G20 presidency in 2014. 

Preparations are underway for major bilateral cultural exchanges in 2015 under the auspices of the Australia International Cultural Council.

Community Links

In 1967, Turkey and Australia signed a bilateral agreement on assisted migration.  Under the agreement, Australia offered migration to whole families, as permanent migrants. The program resulted in an increase of the Turkey-born population in Australia from 1,544 at the 1961 Census to 11,589 in 1971. The 2011 Census showed that 66,924 Australian residents claimed Turkish ancestry, with 32,843 having been born in Turkey.

Turkey and Australia have established a number of sister city agreements, including Adana and Sydney, Izmir and Melbourne and Eceabat and Oberon.

Bilateral Agreements

Australia and Turkey have signed bilateral agreements on a broad range of areas including:

  • an agreement on the residence and employment of Turkish citizens in Australia, signed in 1967;
  • an Agreement on Economic Co-operation, signed in 1988;
  • an Extradition Treaty, which entered into force in 2003;
  • a Work and Holiday Visa Arrangement, signed in 2005;
  • a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on agricultural cooperation, signed in 2005; a Defence Framework Agreement, signed in 2006;
  • an MOU on counter-terrorism cooperation and organised crime, signed in 2007;
  • an arrangement on cooperation in the fields of animal health and biosecurity, signed in 2008.
  • an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which entered into force in 2009;
  • a Defence Material Cooperation Arrangement, signed in March 2010;
  • a Double Taxation Agreement signed in 2010; and
  • an Air services Agreement, signed in 2010.

Bilateral Economic and Trade Relationship

Turkey is Australia’s 33rd largest merchandise trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $1.5 billion in 2013-14. Exports to Turkey were worth $709 million, principal items being gold, medicaments, coal and raw hides and skins. Imports were valued at $738 million, with principal items including iron/steel tubes and pipes, fruit and nuts, and household-type equipment.

Bilateral investment between the two countries is relatively small, although the entry into force of an Investment Protection & Promotion Agreement in 2009 and signature of a Double Taxation Agreement in 2010 are aimed at further encouraging bilateral investment.  Australian investment in Turkey was worth $1.02 billion in 2013, well ahead of Turkey’s investment in Australia (A$33million).

Australian companies have invested in Turkey, mainly in the energy sector. Other areas of investment interest include infrastructure (brought about by government privatisation programs), mineral exploration, construction and agribusiness.

Political Overview

The Republic of Turkey was founded on 29 October 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a military hero who participated in the Gallipoli campaign. As its first President – remaining in office until his death in 1938 – Atatürk embarked on a radical modernisation program. In the ensuing years Turkey underwent a series of social and political reforms that saw the establishment of a secular, democratic political system. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan's ‘Justice and Development Party’ (AKP), was first elected in 2002, re-elected in 2007 and elected for a third time in June 2011.  

In August 2014, Erdoğan stood as a candidate in Turkey’s first ever-direct presidential elections; previously the parliament elected the president.  Erdoğan easily won the nation-wide ballot with 51.8 percent of the vote and was inaugurated on 28 August 2014.
Turkey’s current Prime Minister is Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former Foreign Minister.

The next parliamentary general elections are due to be held on Sunday 7 June 2015.

Following sporadic ceasefires in the three-decade long conflict, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced in March 2013 that its fighters would agree to a ceasefire and withdraw from Turkey.  Negotiations and efforts to achieve a durable peace solution are ongoing.

Foreign Policy

Traditionally, Turkey's foreign relations have been structured around pro-Western alliances, its geo-strategic position and cultural and historical ties. The United States is a key foreign policy and security partner for Turkey.  Turkey’s links with NATO are similarly important and it maintains close relations with a number of European countries, including the UK and Germany, where a significant expatriate Turkish population resides.  Turkey has also actively promoted enhanced East-West links through the “Alliance of Civilizations”, a UN initiative it jointly supports with Spain.

Turkey has a close historical relationship with Afghanistan and has twice led NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. It has approximately 503 troops in Afghanistan (as at February 2015) and is leading the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Jowzjan province.  Turkey is committed to encouraging the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to cooperate more closely and sponsors a regular trilateral dialogue process. The Turkish Government has also deployed maritime and ground forces to the UNIFIL deployment in southern Lebanon in 2006, and contributed police to UN missions in East Timor.

Turkey regards Cyprus as an important national security issue and maintains a military presence in northern Cyprus.  It is the only country to recognise the self-declared ’Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.  Turkey supports the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to bring about a negotiated and peaceful settlement to the dispute in Cyprus.

Turkey maintains strong relations with Black Sea countries and is a leader in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) forum.  Turkey acts as an important link in the East-West Energy Corridor, bringing Caspian energy from Azerbaijan to Europe and world markets.  Turkey has taken steps to improve its relations with Armenia.  In October 2009, Turkey and Armenia signed Protocols that, when ratified by both countries, are intended to lead to the normalisation of relations.

Economic Overview

Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world.  With a population of approximately 76 million people, 40 percent of whom are under 22, Turkey possesses considerable potential for continued growth and development.  

In 2001, Turkey experienced a severe financial crisis and adopted a series of financial and fiscal reforms as part of an IMF program.  The reforms strengthened the country's economic fundamentals and ushered in an era of strong growth - averaging more than 6 per cent annually until 2008.  Global economic conditions and tighter fiscal policy caused GDP to contract in 2009, but Turkey was able to rebound strongly from the global financial crisis, experiencing around 9 per cent GDP growth in 2010-11. Growth dropped to roughly 4 percent in 2013 and 2014, and the OECD forecasts 3.5 percent growth for 2015 and 4 percent in 2016.  The OECD also assesses Turkey’s current account deficit will stay above 5 percent of GDP, with large short-term foreign debt refinancing needs making Turkey vulnerable to shifts in international investor sentiments.

Reliance on energy imports is the major cause of Turkey’s current account deficit, but Turkey’s strategic position also provides opportunities for Turkey to develop its role as an energy transit country between Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  The EU remains Turkey’s major trading partner, but Turkey has diversified its trade in recent years. Turkey has long sought full entry into the European Union (EU) and its predecessors, with the Turkey’s entry into the European Customs Union in 1996 an important milestone. Accession negotiations with the EU began in October 2005 and are ongoing.  

Last Updated: 23 July 2014