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US to pledge earthquake aid during Antony Blinken’s first visit to Turkey



US to pledge earthquake aid during Antony Blinken's first visit to Turkey

The US has sent nearly 200 rescuers and contributed an initial $85 million in relief. (file)


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Turkey on Sunday to discuss support after the massive earthquake, his first visit to the NATO ally that has had turbulent relations with Washington.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that Antony Blinken would visit Incirlik Air Base, through which the United States has sent aid, and then hold talks on “continuing US support” in the capital, Ankara.

Top US diplomats will also attend the Munich security conference, where the Ukraine war and tensions with China will be at the center, and visit Greece, a historic rival of NATO ally Turkey.

The United States has sent nearly 200 rescuers and contributed an initial $85 million to Turkey, deploying Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters to deliver supplies to badly affected areas.

The trip, which was being planned before the February 6 earthquake that killed nearly 40,000 people in the country and neighboring Syria, will be the first by Blinken to Turkey in more than two years.

President Joe Biden was elected after promising to distance himself more from his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Biden had previously labeled an autocrat.

But the Biden administration has since seen Turkey as helpful for a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine, including a deal to send grain through the Black Sea to address world shortages.

The Biden administration has voiced support for Turkey’s request to buy the F-16 fighter-jets, but the sale is being blocked in Congress because of concerns over Turkey’s human rights record and threats to Greece.

The United States is looking for ways to encourage Erdogan to lift his objections to NATO membership by Sweden and Finland, which have abandoned neutrality since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey’s grip has strengthened as Erdogan presses Sweden to crack down on Kurdish militants seen as terrorists by Ankara.

Following signs of progress, Erdogan again objected to Sweden after a protest outside Turkey’s embassy in Stockholm in which a far-right activist set Islam’s holy book, the Quran, on fire.

In recent years the United States has also been angered by Turkey’s purchase of an advanced air defense system from Moscow, saying it could help NATO’s primary adversary hone in on Western fighter-bombers.

Blinken is expected to discuss tensions with Turkey during a visit to Athens on Monday, although temperatures have cooled since the quake as Greece offers aid to its neighbour.

Blinken will begin his trip on Thursday in Frankfurt and then attend the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of leaders that takes place a week before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Munich, Blinken will join Vice President Kamala Harris, who is part of a group of US officials traveling to Europe around the anniversary, with Biden in Poland next week.

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi is also expected to arrive in Munich, offering a possible opportunity for a meeting with Blinken, although US officials said nothing had been decided.

Blinken was due to travel to Beijing earlier this month in the first trip by a top US diplomat in more than four years to prevent tensions between the world’s two biggest economies from spiraling out of control.

But he abruptly canceled his visit when the United States said a Chinese surveillance balloon, which was later shot down, was sighted over the US mainland.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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