US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara Monday after visiting the site of the earthquake and announcing $100 million in additional aid.
It is the US Secretary of State’s first trip to Turkey since he took office two years ago.
The conflict in Ukraine should be on the agenda. Antony Blinken said Sunday that China is considering supplying “arms” to Russia and that he told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi of Washington’s concerns about it the day before.
In this context of growing tensions, the United States recognizes a constructive role for its Turkish ally: since the conflict began on February 24, 2022, Ankara – which has good relations with Kiev and Moscow – has offered its mediation to end it. .
The United States and Turkey, NATO allies, sometimes have strained relations, and their differences should be discussed during the meeting.
The priority is Turkey’s blockade of membership in the alliance of Sweden and Finland, whose candidatures have been pending since May. On Thursday, the head of the organization, Jens Stoltenberg, even considered during a visit to Ankara that it was “now” to integrate these two northern European countries.
Among other geopolitical issues is the possible sale of F-16 fighter jets promised to Turkey by President Joe Biden. The sale is blocked by Congress in Washington over concerns about Turkey’s human rights record and threats against Greece.
Another point of contention is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which Turkey considers “terrorist” and which has been a key force in the fight against the jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS), with air support from the International Coalition-led coalition United states.
Antony Blinken’s visit also comes in connection with the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on February 6.
Fourteen days after this 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated southern Turkey and northern Syria, damage remains significant and casualties very high: more than 44,000 people have lost their lives, according to the latest data.
On the ground, 265,000 Turkish rescuers work tirelessly, accompanied by almost 11,500 rescuers from abroad. But Turkey announced on Sunday that it would stop most of this research.
No new survivors have been cleared from the ruins for more than 24 hours after a couple were rescued in Antakya, capital of Hatay province, on Saturday, 296 hours after the tremor.
The United States had deployed several search and rescue teams in Turkey the day after the earthquake, about 200 people, and released an initial tranche of $85 million in humanitarian aid.
On Sunday, Mr Blinken announced additional aid to the country.
“We’re adding $100 million to help those in need,” he said.
The head of American diplomacy met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at Incirlik airbase in the south-east of the country before heading to Ankara where he is due to meet Mr Erdogan.
From this base in Incirlik, part of the humanitarian aid, especially American, is channeled to the areas hit by the earthquake, which is the worst disaster for Turkey today.
The US Secretary of State then accompanied Mr. Cavusoglu on a helicopter flight over the devastated province of Hatay in the south-east of the country.
He also met in Turkey with representatives of the Syrian rescue group White Helmets, which operates in rebel-controlled areas in Syria.
After Turkey, Mr Blinken will conclude his European trip in Athens, where on Monday evening and Tuesday he will have a series of meetings with the authorities of that country, Turkey’s historic rival but also a partner in NATO.