Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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World Powers Compete for Influence in Devastated Turkey as Earthquake Diplomacy Takes Center Stage

Monday 20/February/2023 - 12:52 PM
The Reference
Ahmed Seif EL-Din

Turkey's earthquake has shaken not only the country but also the international community. The country has been devastated by a catastrophic earthquake that has destroyed several major cities, including Adiyaman, Kahramanmaras, and Antakya. Yusuf Ozturk, an academic who returned to help the rescue effort, lost 170 family members, friends, and acquaintances in the disaster, and the number continues to rise. The situation has turned into a disaster diplomacy event, where the world powers are competing for influence in the rubble of Turkey.

The combined Chinese and Iranian team digging out Ozturk's family represents the geopolitical rift between America, NATO, and their western allies on one side and Russia, China, and Iran on the other. The earthquake cut through a region where the Kurdish population is high, and the humanitarian response could have political consequences as well. With elections coming up in May, Kurdish loyalties could play an important role, and the earthquake response is both a political and humanitarian issue.

Even though the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have sent aid packages to Turkey, their motives have come under scrutiny. The UAE has been leading efforts by Arab countries that cut ties with Assad at the start of the Syrian civil war to bring him "in from the cold." It is noteworthy that the UAE sent $50 million of aid to President Assad of Syria, the same as to Turkey, despite a far smaller loss of life there. The United States and other Western states have also sent aid and rescue teams.

The earthquake has brought together unlikely allies, such as Armenia, whose people deeply resent Turkey for the massacres of their grandfathers in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire, but have still sent help. The Barzani Charity Foundation, the charitable arm of the Barzani family, the ruling clan of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, has also set up a large aid center in Adiyaman. The Barzanis are western-aligned, conservative politically, and historically opposed to the left-wing PKK.

Despite the politics surrounding the earthquake, the people affected by the disaster are not concerned with the political ramifications but rather the fate of their cities and loved ones. The earthquake has shattered the lives of many, and the rescue teams are doing their best to find survivors and bring them to safety. The question remains, how will the country hold elections in May, and how will the disaster diplomacy affect the political landscape of Turkey?