As part of the diplomatic and emergency relief efforts since the devastating earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to Adana province to oversee US assistance and pledge a further $100 million in aid. This brought the total US earthquake relief contribution to $185 million, on top of the estimated $80 million in aid from private individuals, organizations, and corporations.
Since the earthquake there have been numerous examples of so-called “earthquake diplomacy.” Most notably, Greece and Armenia — which have longstanding disputes with Türkiye — have provided hundreds of search and rescue personnel and thousands of tons of humanitarian assistance to their neighbor.
Earthquake diplomacy could extend beyond the region. After more than eight decades of a strong relationship, it is no secret that the US-Turkish relationship is in trouble. There is hope that Blinken’s visit to Türkiye, and the significant amount of US humanitarian aid, might create an atmosphere of goodwill that can get the relationship back on track.
There are three areas that Washington and Ankara should focus on. The first is America selling the F-16 fighter jet to Ankara. The sale would be an important confidence building measure between both sides. The sooner a deal can be done, the sooner the relationship between Ankara and Washington can get back on track.
The second area of focus should be Ukraine. While many in Washington are concerned about the cozy economic relationship Türkiye continues to have with Russia, it is equally recognized that Ankara plays an important role in Ukraine’s national defense. Türkiye has provided Ukraine with Bayraktar drones, multilaunch rocket systems, and armored vehicles. Ankara has used its diplomatic prowess in the Black Sea region to broker a vital grain export deal between Ukraine and Russia. This has helped to prevent a humanitarian crisis across much of the Global South while giving Ukraine much needed revenue. Although US-Turkish cooperation on Ukraine may not be in the public eye, there’s enough commonality between Washington and Ankara for both sides to pursue this issue as a confidence building measure.
Finally, there should be more US-Turkish cooperation over regional energy security. Türkiye wants to play a role as a regional energy hub. Already, major oil and gas pipelines connecting the Caspian Sea to global markets either pass through Türkiye or have their terminus there. As Europe starts looking for alternatives to Russian oil and gas, Türkiye can play a role considering its close relationship with major gas producing countries such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
Since Türkiye joined NATO in 1952, the US-Türkiye relationship has helped keep the transatlantic community safe and secure. Not only is it in Washington and Ankara’s interest to get their relationship back on track, but also for the EU, NATO and their partners in the region.