Skip to main content

Turkey earthquake: Top US diplomat to visit to show solidarity next week

Sources said the planned trip had been arranged prior to Monday's devastating earthquakes
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media prior to a meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, not pictured, in the Treaty Room of the US State Department in Washington, DC, on 9 February 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will visit Turkey next week to show solidarity with the earthquake-hit Nato ally, according to two Turkish sources speaking to Middle East Eye.

Sources said that although Blinken's visit was arranged before the earthquake, it would now largely focus on ways to help Ankara in its efforts to provide aid for millions of people impacted by the disaster.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers are still scouring through flattened neighbourhoods, despite freezing weather that has deepened the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.

The United Nations has warned that at least 870,000 people urgently need hot meals across Turkey and Syria. In Syria alone, up to 5.3 million people may have been made homeless.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said late on Saturday that at least 24,617 people were killed in Turkey alone, while the number of those injured stood at 80,278 people across 10 provinces, including Hatay, Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras, the epicentre of the tremors.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Turkey earthquake: Ultranationalists campaign against Syrian refugees after deadly disaster
Read More »

Turkish and American bilateral relations have been tense for the last few years. Both countries are at a loggerhead on Syria and on Nato's expansion, where Ankara is blocking Sweden and Finland's membership bids unless they crack down on groups viewed as terrorists by the Turkish state.

US Congress last month made sure that it wouldn't approve a multibillion dollar F-16 sale to Turkey unless Ankara moved forward with the Nato bids.

US President Joe Biden and his administration also stayed clear of Turkey since entering office, with the exception of US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan who visited Istanbul a few times for Ukraine talks.

Blinken is expected to officially open the newly built US embassy in Ankara during his visit and inspect the US aid efforts on the ground.

USAID last week announced $85m in humanitarian assistance to Turkey and Syria.

The US also sent urban search-and-rescue teams from Virginia and Los Angeles, including 170 personnel and 12 canines, who travelled with specialised tools and equipment, such as hydraulic concrete-breaking equipment, saws, torches and drills, along with advanced medical equipment for search-and-rescue operations.

USAID said the teams had been operating on a 24-hour basis in Turkey's Adiyaman city since Thursday.

The Pentagon also repositioned the US Navy's George H.W. Bush carrier strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to provide logistics, medical and rotary air lift support if required.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.