April 1, 2023

Prior to now few years, Turkey’s international coverage has been outlined by resets. Ankara has buried the hatchet and re-engaged with a number of nations it has lengthy been at odds with, together with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel. A rapprochement with the federal government of Syria can be on the desk, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saying he would contemplate assembly his Syrian counterpart to “foster peace and stability within the area”.

Now, the lethal February 6 earthquakes seem to have paved the way in which for Turkey to fix its ties with but extra of its neighbors.

To put in Greece. Earlier than the earthquakes, which claimed tens of hundreds of lives and flattened total cities throughout Turkey’s southeast, the nation’s relations with Greece have been on the breaking point, With each nations gearing up for elections, there have been widespread fears that ever-increasing tensions within the Aegean and the Japanese Mediterranean may escalate right into a full-on navy confrontation. However every part modified after the earthquakes hit and the size of devastation Turkey is going through grew to become obvious.

The federal government of Greece despatched tens of hundreds of tents, beds and blankets to the catastrophe zone to assist survivors. It additionally deployed absolutely geared up groups of rescue professionals, docs and paramedics to the area. On February 12, Greek Overseas Minister Nikos Dendias paid a go to to the earthquake-stricken Hatay province, changing into the primary high-ranking official from a European Union member state to take action. Personal Greek residents have additionally been desperate to assist their neighbors by way of this disaster, donating what they will to charities working in affected areas and sharing messages of solidarity on social media. Turkey responded with real gratitude, main Dendias to say he welcomes “the shift in Ankara’s tone”.

This dramatic enchancment in relations within the face of a humanitarian disaster was not notably shocking for long-term observers of Turkey-Greece relations, as the 2 nations had efficiently engaged in so-called “earthquake diplomacy” for the primary time in 1999. Following a lethal quake in Turkey’s northwestern Marmara area in August that 12 months, then-Turkish Overseas Minister Ismail Cem and his Greek counterpart George Papandreou launched into a journey to enhance the neighboring nations’ relations. The ensuing rapprochement paved the way in which for the EU’s December 1999 resolution to grant Turkey official candidate standing.

The earthquakes additionally led to an ease in Turkey-Armenia tensions.

Placing apart its longstanding variations and disputes with Ankara, the Armenian authorities despatched meals, medication, ingesting water and different emergency provides to devastated cities and cities quickly after the quakes. Armenian analysis and rescue crews have been additionally on the bottom. Armenian crews collaborating in rescue operations in Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras, two provinces that have been house to giant Armenian communities prior to now, was extremely symbolic. Extra importantly, the help from Armenia crossed into Turkey by way of the land border which has been sealed for the reason that early Nineties. On the again of those goodwill gestures, Armenian Overseas Minister Ararat Mirzoyan visited Ankara on February 15 to debate the continued efforts to normalize ties between Armenia and Turkey.

There is no such thing as a doubt that Turkey is on considerably higher footing to enhance its relations with Armenia and Greece now than it was only a month in the past. However may the continued “earthquake diplomacy” actually remodel Turkey’s relations with its two neighbors, each of whom – for causes of historical past – loom giant in Turkish society’s creativeness?

The prospects are combined.

Immediately, amid a world financial downturn and a warfare on the coronary heart of Europe, Greece has a lot cause to try to enhance its relations with Turkey. But, regardless of a pure catastrophe as soon as once more bringing the neighboring nations nearer collectively, the problems on the root of Greece and Turkey’s issues stay unaddressed.

In October, for instance, Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tripoli-based Libyan authorities to prospect for offshore oil and gasoline in components of the Japanese Mediterranean claimed by Greece and Egypt. Though a Libyan courtroom has now suspended the deal, it stays an irritant to Greece. Turkey, in the meantime, doubtless didn’t neglect Greece’s transfer to beef up its navy presence on the Aegean Islands and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s guarantees to strengthen the fence alongside the Greek-Turkish border to stop asylum seekers from pouring in. Final however not least, there isn’t any signal of a breakthrough in divided Cyprus, the place Greece and Turkey have been at loggerheads for many years.

So Greek-Turkish relations stay locked in a vicious cycle. There’s each cause to imagine, as soon as Turkey clothes its wounds and will get again on its toes, the longstanding disputes between the 2 nations will return to the floor.

Immediately, Armenia has much more causes than Greece to try to enhance its relations with Turkey. The 2020 defeat it suffered in opposition to Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh has revealed the perils of its dependence on Russia. Moscow not solely failed to return to Yerevan’s rescue, it did subsequent to nothing to cease Azeris and their Turkish allies from recapturing territory.

In consequence, Armenia now feels the necessity to change its international coverage and views stronger relations with the EU and a doable reconciliation with Turkey as a doable manner ahead.

Final July, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held his first-ever assembly with Erdogan, whereas attending the European Political Group’s inaugural summit in Prague. With Azerbaijan having the higher hand in Karabakh, Turkey is pleased to have interaction with Armenia – enhancing its personal standing as a prime participant within the South Caucasus. As well as, the Turkish authorities is eyeing the institution of the so-called Center Hall working to Central Asia through Armenia and Azerbaijan. A important piece of the puzzle is the so-called Zanzegur hall connecting by way of Armenian territory the Azeri exclave of Nakhichevan, adjoining to Turkey, to Azerbaijan correct.

Nonetheless, there are additionally limits to how far this rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia may go.

The chief spoiler is ongoing skirmishes round Karabakh. Since December, Azerbaijani “environmentalists” have been blocking the one land route between the Armenian-run territory and Armenia. The blockade has induced a scarcity of drugs, meals and different important provides. It appears Baku is making an attempt to power the Armenian facet to signal a peace treaty which might see Karabakh’s full return into Azerbaijani sovereignty. On February 16, Azerbaijan even put ahead a draft. So long as Azerbaijan continues its makes an attempt to increase its territory, a significant step ahead on the Armenia-Turkey entrance will most likely have to attend.

The immense struggling and loss Turkey skilled on account of the February 6 earthquakes led its neighbors to place apart deep-rooted disagreements and historic grudges to supply assist and solidarity. However, simply because it has been the case again in 1999, present makes an attempt at earthquake diplomacy are unlikely to provide long-term, sustainable enhancements in bilateral relations. With time, harsh political realities will kick in, and we’ll see a return to previous tensions and confrontations.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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