Nikolaos Stelgias

Nikolaos Stelgias

Disaster diplomacy in place after deadly earthquakes in Turkey

"Shared suffering breaks down the barriers of nationalism and hostility"

Ilan Kelman emphasizes that "disaster-related activities can catalyze diplomatic actions" in a negative or positive way. This means that "disasters can be exploited as weapons." Indeed, as Kelman argues, there are instances where a country "takes advantage of an enemy’s suffering from an event," such as extreme weather conditions or natural disasters like earthquakes or fires. At the same time, there are instances where calamities act as a catalyst for fresh, constructive breakthroughs when handled correctly. In this scenario, the participants strive for reconciliation and "lasting diplomacy" in order to improve communication and cooperation.

The recent developments suggest that some nations which have recently struggled in their ties with Ankara are choosing the second scenario in the face of the 2023 deadly earthquakes that hit southern Turkey. The international community is hurrying to aid Turkey, which is dealing with one of the worst calamities in its recent history. Among the countries that offered to help are the US, Greece, Israel, and many other EU countries. The case of Greece is a typical example of disaster diplomacy. The Hellenic Air Force, which has recently engaged in virtual conflicts with the Turkish Air Force, is now rushing to transfer a disaster response team which will assist in the find and rescue missions in southeast Turkey.

The global community stands by Turkey

As Gercek News informed its readers, following the catastrophic earthquakes that took hundreds of lives, nations from all over the world have deployed search and rescue teams to assist Turkey. Thousands of rescuers are being transferred to the earthquake zone, according to information provided by Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). The first foreign rescuers are coming from at least 65 different countries.

In the American continent, the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), with representatives from two independent fire departments in Virginia and California, was sent by the United States to assist people who remain buried beneath the wreckage after the earthquake disaster in Turkey. Similarly, Mexico has dispatched a team of 145 persons, including 15 members of the Red Cross, 37 members of the navy, and 93 members of the Defense Ministry. A group of rescuers, search-and-rescue dogs, and tons of supplies were also transferred to Turkey, according to the latest announcements from Japan and Taiwan.

In Europe, following Ankara's appeal for EU assistance and the mobilization of more than 10 search and rescue teams, the European Union announced that it was deploying a number of rescue teams to Turkey. The European Commission released a statement saying that "Urban Search and Rescue teams have been rapidly mobilized from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, France, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania to support the first responders on the ground." Furthermore, according to EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic, the 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Centre of the EU has turned on its emergency Copernicus satellite mapping service to assist first responders operating on the ground. Additionally, Slovakia, Italy, and Spain have offered Turkey their rescue crews. A private plane from Koln with German personnel and seven rescue dogs was transported to Turkey. Two civil defense teams with a total of 136 rescue personnel were sent to Turkey by France. Moreover, according to British Foreign Minister, James Cleverly, the UK will immediately send 76 emergency response personnel, dogs, and equipment to Turkey.

In countries that are closer to Turkey, rescue teams were immediately mobilised with the aim of providing help. A special rescue team made up of 21 firemen, two doctors, three emergency medical professionals, and two search and rescue dogs was transferred to Turkey from the Greek Special Disaster Response Unit (EMAK). In addition, Russia is sending 100 rescue specialists to Turkey on 4 Ministry of Health aircrafts and announced that it intends to send a field hospital to the area, where 40 medical professionals will provide aid. Israel announced that it would send two aircrafts to Turkey with basic humanitarian aid supplies, a technical team, and teams for search and rescue. According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all authorities have been told to get ready right away to help Turkey with its medical and search-and-rescue needs. Azerbaijan's Ministry of Emergency Situations announced that a team of 370 rescuers had been flown to Turkey. Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, stated his country's willingness to offer "urgent relief aid to these two friendly nations" and offered sympathy for the "heartbreaking catastrophe." Egypt expressed its readiness to assist Turkey and Syria "meet this calamity" and expressed sympathy to both nations. Ukraine stated that it is cooperating with Turkish authorities and is prepared to send a sizable contingent of rescuers to assist with relief efforts.

Response teams are also heading from Asia to Turkey. A team of 50 people and 25 tons of supplies have left Pakistan, whilst India announced that two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), made up of 100 people outfitted with specialized equipment and 100 trained search and rescue dogs, will be dispatched to the earthquake-affected districts. Turkish and Syrian officials also received messages of support from UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who likewise promised to help them lessen the effects of the earthquake. The support of Qatar for the peoples of Turkey and Syria, as well as the provision of all necessary support to lessen the impacts of the earthquake, was reaffirmed on Monday by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Disaster diplomacy

In the case of Greece, the ongoing disaster diplomacy goes beyond the assistance that the Greek government has provided to the Turkish people, who are being put through an unprecedented trial. Greek civil society, local government, and non-governmental organizations are organizing to aid Turkey.

Recognizing the humanitarian situation brought on by the earthquakes, Médecins du Monde and the Red Cross are standing by all those who are impacted. All are invited to participate in the organizations' work by assisting the impacted individuals. "Médecins du Monde stands with the people of Turkey and Syria as they struggle to recover from the tragic 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that devastated southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. Teams from Médecins du Monde have already mobilized to provide urgent assistance in the affected areas, where they will treat the injured and supply them with all the necessities,” states the announcement from the organisation.

Recognizing the severe humanitarian crisis brought on by the series of earthquakes that struck southeast Turkey and Syria, killing thousands of people and driving hundreds of thousands of residents from their homes, the Hellenic Red Cross invites everyone to donate money by making an appeal.

Campaigns to collect essentials are now being organised around Greece. Masks, antiseptics, gloves, warm clothing for adults and children, blankets, quilts, milk, canned and dry food, and personal hygiene items were all sought by the municipality of Alexandroupolis. The Association of Hospital Doctors in Thessaloniki also appeals for the collection of essentials. The volunteers from the social kitchen “The Other Human” has also announced that soon they will be leaving for Turkey and Syria to help provide food and other essentials to those affected for the earthquake. For the Greeks who want to send financial help to Turkey, bank accounts have been announced in Greece. The Turkish government's bank accounts that were made available to send relief to the earthquake-affected areas were also republished by the Greek media.

"Solidarity and Courage"

The daily Avgi, the official mouthpiece of the Greek opposition, published an editorial with the Turkish title "Dayanşma ve Cesaret" (Solidarity and Courage) in an effort to show support for the suffering people of Turkey.

"Shared suffering breaks down the barriers of nationalism and hostility. The paths to peace and brotherhood open via solidarity. No nation, no religion, and no color are immune to pain and sorrow,” the Greek daily emphasizes.

The Avgi also sent the following message: "The international support must be immediate and significant. Our nation has already dispatched aid and we must continue sending help. The most crucial thing today is to save as many human lives as possible. For the peoples there is only one weapon: solidarity. We must stand by our Turkish and Syrian neighbors that are in trial by any means possible. We know what suffering means. We have witnessed nature's untamed wrath. The memories of the double catastrophe in Turkey and Greece in 1999 are still fresh. Our thoughts are with you. The peoples have nothing to separate them and everything to unite them."

*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.

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