The reconstruction phase will be a test of international solidarity

Although only two weeks have passed since the February 6 earthquakes, two additional earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.4 and 5.8 in Hatay reminded us how long this struggle would be. Despite the gigantic scale of the destruction, our country’s determination to fight is substantial. Plans are being prepared for the reconstruction of the region as the search and rescue efforts move to the debris removal phase. It is obvious that there is a very strong political will for the implementation of these plans as soon as possible. Considering that the healing and rebuilding processes of the wounds will take a long time, it is important that both national bonding and international support continue.

It was pleasing that the international support has been at a very high level in the last two weeks. It was important that thousands of international search and rescue team personnel were deployed to the region and contributed to saving many lives. More than 100 countries’ sending humanitarian aid, including shelter and food aid, showed that we, as Türkiye, are not alone. We can say that these aids are an indicator of both the success of Türkiye’s humanitarian aid policy and its importance in the international system. With all these aids, it is clear that the rebuilding process requires a much broader and long-term solidarity.

As an example of this solidarity, the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the earthquake area was also important for Turkish-American relations. In some crises in the past, Türkiye’s feeling that it did not receive the support it expected from its NATO allies and the United States adversely affected the relations between the two countries. For example, vague statements from the American administration in the first hours of the July 15 coup attempt gave the impression that Türkiye was following a wait-and-see policy. The late arrival of Biden’s condolence visit to Türkiye was also the subject of criticism. The lack of solidarity in the major Daesh attacks in Türkiye compared to the attacks in Europe also negatively affected bilateral relations.

It is possible to say that the Biden administration has learned from these previous examples. It was an important start when President Biden called President Erdogan on the first day of the earthquake to express his condolences, promised support, and announced that he had sent search and rescue teams. With the announcement of a total of 185 million dollars in aid to Türkiye and Syria so far, USID’s aid has been serious steps in terms of humanitarian aid. Blinken’s statements regarding the continuation of their support to NATO ally Türkiye during his Ankara contacts were also noteworthy for the sake of alliance solidarity. Despite these, Blinken’s first visit to Türkiye after the Biden administration came to power showed that the difficulties in relations continued.

At the Blinken-Çavuşoğlu press conference, it is necessary to underline the importance of the U.S.’s messages of support and solidarity to Türkiye. Such messages can be effective in terms of continuing the struggle of Türkiye in the world public opinion and the continuation of humanitarian aid. However, it is difficult to say that the positions of the two sides converge when we look at the answers to the questions about the sale of F-16s, YPG and FETO. While Blinken’s reiterated thanks for Türkiye’s efforts in Ukraine points to potential coordination, it is clear that Türkiye’s relationship with Russia makes full cooperation difficult.

It should also be noted that during Blinken’s visit, 600 of the 1,000 containers made by NATO departed by ships. The support and aid sent by NATO member countries to Türkiye in this process are also important for the Biden administration, which is trying to resurrect the alliance as a deterrent actor in the international system. The humanitarian aid issue brought to the agenda by the earthquakes in Türkiye’s relations with the U.S., which has been having problems since the S-400 issue, may contribute to eliminating the lack of mutual trust. When NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg’s statements are remembered, it will be important for NATO to keep its support to Türkiye at the highest level in one of the biggest destructions that an alliance member country has suffered.

Although Türkiye has had significant problems with NATO, the U.S., and the Western alliance in general in recent years, receiving serious humanitarian aid support during the 6 February earthquakes can be seen as a strong first step. However, the continuation of this and providing comprehensive and permanent support to Türkiye’s rebuilding process, which may take at least a few years, will also be critical for the internal solidarity of the Western alliance. If Türkiye feels left alone in this matter in the medium and long term, it will be difficult to solve the priority problems in Turkish-American and Türkiye-Western relations. This will be a handicap in ensuring regional stability.

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