Post-earthquake diplomacy will ease Turkey’s relations with some countries

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Turkey earthquake survivors sit by the fire to warm up. Photo: AFP

Just hours after the devastating earthquake, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis put aside a strained personal relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately offering to help the country deal with the disaster. in the two leaders’ first dialogue in months.

Just six months after Turkey and Israel fully restored diplomatic relations after a decade of rift, on February 7, Israeli volunteers were among the first to land at Gaziantep airport. Here, the plane carrying the Israeli rescue force was parked next to the military aircraft of the “spoiled enemy” Iran.

After experiencing diplomatic conflict and fierce proxy wars with Turkey for influence in the Middle East and North Africa, until coming together in 2020, the United Arab Emirates Reunification and Saudi Arabia have opened checks, launched an aid campaign, and established air bridges to ensure the supply of goods to disaster areas in Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Giorgio Cafiero, CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a political risk analysis firm in Washington, said that while the whole world is watching, praying for the thousands of earthquake victims, governments are often won’t let emotions dictate foreign policy decisions. Instead, he emphasized that national interests are still the driving force behind these countries’ responses to the earthquake in Turkey.

“Several countries around the world are seeing an opportunity to gain greater benefit from Ankara, by means of measures that could give a positive signal to their foreign policy agendas in the Middle East. Turkey,” he added.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visits earthquake survivors. Photo: Reuters

In particular, Sweden’s quick response and firm commitment to helping Turkey deal with this disaster is difficult to explain, if not taking into account the tension that has developed between Ankara and Stockholm throughout 2022. – 2023. Turkey blocked Sweden’s application to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Ankara and Stockholm are at odds over Sweden’s longstanding policy of granting political asylum to the Kurds, helping them escape raids against insurgents in southeastern Turkey – the epicenter of the earthquake. land.

Analysts say efforts at “post-disaster diplomacy” could quickly soften Turkey’s stance, after Sweden joined the rescue and relief efforts.

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Members of the Chinese search and rescue team in Turkey. Photo: Reuters

Rich Outzen, a geopolitical consultant and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Turkey, said: “The messages of sympathy and support from across the region remind us that tragedies have come to light. can also create solidarity in times of crisis.”

According to him, some tense relations in the region may ease after the crisis period and during the recovery process.

Tel Aviv-based analyst Carice Witte said the region’s rapid, robust response to the disaster in Turkey represents a “remarkable development in the normalization of the Middle East region”, which is similar to similar to what happened at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, four Arab countries and Israel signed the Abrahamic Agreement 2020 agreement to normalize relations. In addition, the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum was also established by the eight Arab and European claimants, along with Israel. At the same time, the four-year embargo against Qatar, imposed by Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE with the support of Turkey, was also lifted.

“Since then, Turkey has improved its relations with Russia, China, the Gulf Arab countries and Israel,” said analyst Witte. “Turkey’s clever handling of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel’s concerns regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, the Caucasian Islamic insurgency, and the Palestinian Hamas may have affected the existing relationship. gradually improved with these countries”.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2019. Photo: Reuters

Along with that, according to Witte, President Erdogan has taken a similar approach to China’s willingness to increase trade and funding for Turkey.

“As China is increasing its influence across the Middle East, President Erdogan will continue to seek to leverage China’s needs and interests to strengthen Turkey’s economy and ambitions to become a dominant power. rule in West Asia,” Ms. Witte said.

But analysts say it is difficult to predict how the quake will affect Erdogan’s relationship with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The relationship of Ankara and Damascus has gradually thawed as the two move towards a cautious relationship. Turkey’s support for the Syrian victims could be the driving factor in this process,” said political risk analyst Cafiero. However, he says there are still many “other complex variables in the equation”.

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An earthquake survivor cries next to a collapsed building in Turkey. Photo: Reuters

Meanwhile, military control over earthquake-affected areas in Northern Syria bordering Turkey is being split by Turkish-backed rebel groups, the militia The U.S.-backed Kurds, which Ankara considers terrorists, and the Assad regime backed by Russian and Iranian forces.

Marc Pierini, former EU Ambassador to Syria and Turkey, said: “An earthquake in an area already in the midst of a military conflict will, in essence, be more difficult to deal with.”

According to him, in order to facilitate the support of the victims of the earthquake in Syria, the fighters “must comply with the immediate ceasefire and need to keep the ceasefire until the operations are completed,” he said. rescue operation”.

In an article published February 7 by the Carnegie Middle East Center, Pierini called for cross-border humanitarian operations from Turkey to Syria, with UN approval, to be significantly enhanced. .

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