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.  Throughout 2015, both countries held a series of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, including major cultural exchanges under the auspices of the Australia International Cultural Council.

Turkey hosted the G20 in 2015, following Australia’s G20 presidency in 2014.

2015 saw a series of high-level visits between both countries.  Former Prime Minister Abbott visited Turkey for the Gallipoli commemorations in April 2015.  During his visit, the prime ministers of both countries agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate the threats from foreign fighters. The prime ministers welcomed progress towards a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and agreed to commence work on an MOU on the return of foreign fighters.  Governor-General Cosgrove visited for the centennial August Offensive commemorations at Lone Pine on 6 August 2015.

Prime Minister Turnbull visited Turkey for the G20 Summit in November 2015.

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 34th largest merchandise trading partner, with two-way trade valued at $1.3 billion in 2014. Exports to Turkey were worth $496 million, principal items being gold, coal, and medicaments. Imports were valued at $755 million, with principal items including iron/steel tubes and pipes, fruit and nuts, and goods vehicles.

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 $1.17 billion in 2014, well ahead of Turkey’s investment in Australia (A$48million).

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.  The then Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan's ‘Justice and Development Party’ (AKP), was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2007 and 2011.  After inconclusive elections in June 2015, the AKP was re-elected for a fourth time at fresh elections held on 1 November 2015.

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 as president on 28 August 2014.


1 November 2015 election results


2015 Results

2011 results

% of vote




% of vote




Justice & Development Party





Republican People’s Party





Nationalist Action Party





People’s Democracy Party





*(ran as independent candidates in 2011)

The June elections saw the rise of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).  In achieving 13 percent of the vote in June, it cleared the 10 percent electoral hurdle to claim 80 seats in parliament.  This gave Turkey’s Kurdish population a voice in parliament for the first time through party representation, rather than independents.  The HDP suffered a drop in support at the November elections but still cleared the 10 per cent threshold to retain parliamentary representation.

Following the November 2015 elections, Ahmet Davutoğlu was reappointed as Turkey’s Prime Minister. Davutoğlu announced the cabinet of Turkey’s 64th government on 24 November.   Key appointments included Numan Kurtulmus, Mehmet Simsek, Yalcin Akdogan, Tugrul Turkes, and Lutfi Elvan as deputy prime ministers.  Having relinquished their positions ahead of the formation of Turkey’s recent interim administration, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Ismet Yilmaz returned to the Foreign Affairs and Defence portfolios, respectively.   Mustafa Elitas was appointed Minister of Economy.

Despite a two year hiatus, in July 2015 fighting again erupted in the ongoing bloody insurgency between the Turkish Government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.  The conflict has been confined mostly to Turkey’s Kurdish south-east but has also involved Turkish military operations against PKK camps in northern Syria and Iraq.   No end appears in sight to the three-decades long conflict.  The PKK is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Australia and many other countries, including the UK, Canada, the US, and New Zealand. 

Separately, Turkey has also recently endured serious terrorist attacks.  On 20 July 2015, an apparent suicide bomber killed 32 and injured scores of others at the southern Turkish town on Suruç, close to the border with Syria.  In one of the worst attacks in Turkey’s history, on 10 October explosions outside Ankara’s main railway station killed over 100 during a peace demonstration involving left-wing and Kurdish groups.  The Turkish government blamed both attacks on Daesh-linked suicide bombers.

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. The situation in Syria is a major preoccupation for Turkey and it is a member of the anti-Daesh coalition.  Turkey is also hosting about 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s links with NATO are also 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 509 troops in Afghanistan (as at October 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 18th largest economy in the world (World Bank, 2014). 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 percent GDP growth in 2010-11.  Growth dropped to roughly 4 percent from  2013 to 2015 , and the Economist Intelligence Unit is forecasting real GDP growth of 3 per cent in 2016, accelerating to an average of 3.6 per cent from 2017 to 2020.  The OECD 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 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