Last week’s deadly earthquakes in southern Türkiye were “the deadliest natural disaster on alliance territory since the foundation of NATO,” the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.
In a joint press conference, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Stoltenberg’s visit is meant to show NATO’s solidarity with longtime member Türkiye after the Feb. 6 twin earthquakes, which claimed the lives of over 36,000 people.
Thanking the NATO chief for his “active role” since the very beginning of the disaster, Cavusoglu said: “The NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center has been coordinating this (NATO aid) assistance since the beginning. The NATO Council has also decided to send (residential) containers and tents that are suitable for winter conditions from their inventory to our country.”
Cavusoglu said the NATO chief will also be received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday and then proceed to the quake-hit Hatay region, where he will meet with National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
Akar and Stoltenberg will discuss supplies for accommodation to be provided by NATO to quake victims and visit the site for the preparation of these facilities.
The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors on Feb. 6 were centered in Kahramanmaras and struck 10 other provinces – Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa, and Elazig. More than 13 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.
Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that struck Türkiye in the space of less than 10 hours.
Sweden, Finland, Türkiye’s security concerns
Separately, Cavusoglu noted that they addressed certain regional matters, including Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession bids.
Underlining the importance of the trilateral deal signed last June between Türkiye and the Nordic countries, Cavusoglu said: “There are certain steps, especially steps to be taken by the Swedish side and the provocations that took place they have not been beneficial – especially the provocations in Sweden have not contributed positively.”
He stressed that Türkiye favors strengthening NATO and pledged his country’s continued support to necessary activities in the alliance.
However, Cavusoglu urged addressing Türkiye’s concerns on the two Nordic countries’ bids not just on paper but in actions as well.
“Just as Sweden doesn’t allow Daesh/ISIS propaganda, they shouldn’t allow terrorist group PKK propaganda either,” he added.
In its more than 35-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States, and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of at least 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants.
For his part, Stoltenberg noted the support of NATO allies to Türkiye during such difficult times and said: “This is true and deep solidarity.”
“The focus going forward will be on reconstruction and supporting the displaced. That is why NATO is now setting up temporary housing for thousands of displaced people,” he said.
On Sweden and Finland’s bids, the NATO chief said: “The time is now to ratify both Finland and Sweden.”
“I fully recognize that Türkiye has legitimate security concerns, no country has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye,” he said, adding that the two Nordic states’ memberships “will actually strengthen our capabilities to fight international terrorism.”
He further called a recent burning of the Muslim holy book the Quran in Stockholm “a disgraceful act.”
The Nordic countries abandoned their long-standing policies of military nonalignment and applied for membership in the military alliance after Russia launched its war on Ukraine last February.
But NATO member Türkiye has not yet endorsed their accession, which requires unanimous approval from all existing alliance members.
Turkish officials say the countries, particularly Sweden, have yet to take necessary steps against terrorism.
Talks on their membership bids stalled after provocative demonstrations and Quran burnings in Stockholm.
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