Türkiye hails solidarity of Turkic world after disaster
Turkic states rushed to help Türkiye and shared its pain in its hardest time; President Erdoğan told OTS leaders who assembled in Ankara to advance the bloc’s disaster response
Türkiye will never forget the solidarity shown by the Turkic world after the Feb. 6 earthquakes that ravaged the southeast provinces; President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday as he addressed the opening of the extraordinary summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) in the capital Ankara.
“We called for international help, and OTS members were among the first to respond. You did not leave us alone in our most difficult moment. Our beloved nation will never forget your support,” Erdoğan told the heads of the member states.
“We will once again show at the highest level that the Turkic world is of one heart and band together,” he noted.
The OTS, formerly called the Turkic Council, is an international organization comprising major independent Turkic countries that work together to elevate relations and the union among themselves. Its members are Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, while Hungary, Turkmenistan, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have observer status.
Upon Azerbaijan’s proposal, the leaders convened under the theme of “Disaster-Emergency Management and Humanitarian Assistance” to elaborate on the multilateral cooperation and coordination mechanism in the fight against disasters and hold consultations on current regional challenges, especially in light of the catastrophe in Türkiye.
The Feb. 6 tremors, which marked the biggest disaster in Türkiye’s modern history, leveled thousands of buildings and killed at least 48,448 people across 11 provinces – Adana, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Hatay, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Şanlıurfa. More than 13.5 million people in Türkiye have been affected by the devastating quakes, which also extensively damaged neighboring Syria and claimed at least 6,000 deaths in its northwest.
Condolences, donations, rescuers, and humanitarian relief have poured into the region from around the world ever since, including from OTS members who sent a total of 1,706 searches and rescue and medical personnel, 53 rescue dogs, and over 3,000 tons of humanitarian aid, and set up nine field hospitals while raising over $5 million for the victims.
Erdoğan once again expressed Türkiye’s commitment to rebuilding the devastated region, assuring that authorities were working to remove the rubble, move the displaced into temporary shelters, and already “rapidly” constructing permanent residences.
“We plan to deliver to the right owners a total of 650,000 residences, 319,000 of which to be completed within the year,” he said, adding, “With the support of our friendly and brotherly nations, we will revive our disaster zone as soon as possible.”
Referring to the United Nations pledge for $1 billion (TL 19 billion) for Türkiye and the international donors conference the European Union’s term president Sweden will be hosting on March 20, Erdoğan noted, “It’s obvious we must increase our multilateral cooperation in the fight against natural disasters and their effects.”
He also opined that once the OTS establishes a civil protection mechanism, it would have the capability to “more effectively manage and execute natural disaster responses.”
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu too, earlier in the day, echoed Erdoğan in expressing gratitude to fellow Turkic states for their “strong solidarity” in the wake of the disaster.
“The great Turkic world deeply mourned for its brothers lost in the earthquake. However, you didn’t just share our grief. You have exhibited the best example of solidarity diplomacy,” Çavuşoğlu told a meeting of the OTS’s Council of Foreign Ministers.
“As my colleagues, you have personally shown your support and sent search and rescue teams and field hospitals,” Çavuşoğlu recalled.
He praised the organization’s potential for growth and revealed the members were “bolstering corporate infrastructure and pushing collaboration to new areas every day.”
“The Organization of Turkic States was a dream for us all, and it became real,” he said.
Erdoğan, too praised the admission of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) into the organization, saying, “Our family council has grown stronger.”
“(With the admission) we have made our strong and determined support for the Turkish Cypriot people concrete,” Erdoğan explained.
“We will continue fighting for the TRNC’s recognition and the removal of restrictions imposed on our Turkish Cypriot brothers and sisters,” he stressed.
Similarly, Çavuşoğlu argued that the organization “must strengthen our unity” and that the TRNC is among us as an observer is meaningful in this respect.”
The recognition of the Turkish Cypriot people’s sovereign equality, rights, and equal international status, and the abolition of the isolation and restrictions that the TRNC is subjected to should be the common goal, Çavuşoğlu also said.
The TRNC was awarded observer status at the OTS’s last summit in Samarkand last November in a move hailed as “an important step in bringing the Turkic states even closer.” The admission marked the first time Turkish Cyprus had the opportunity to be represented in an international organization with its constitutional name.
As for the Central Asia region, Erdoğan said, “I believe, as the OTS, we will play a strategic role in developing regional transport and supply routes, as well as ensuring energy security.”
His remarks reaffirmed Çavuşoğlu’s about advancing the Middle Corridor’s share in global trade “when Asia returns to the spotlight.”
Pointing out the significance of sustainable energy supplication and keeping energy prices at reasonable levels for the welfare of the region’s economies, Erdoğan listed the large-scale projects implemented by Turkic states so far in the Caspian basin, namely the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).
The Middle Corridor formally dubbed the Trans-Caspian East-West Corridor, allows the fast transportation of goods from China to Europe and emerges as a vital source of commercial opportunity for Central Asian countries.
Turning to international issues, namely the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Erdoğan was in “constant” touch with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
He argued that Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by Ankara and the U.N., as well as the extensive prisoner swap deals, have “proven the sides can meet on common ground.”
“Türkiye will continue its efforts to bring the sides back to the negotiating table,” he said.
“Türkiye is satisfied to see the coordination and collaboration grow every day between the organizations of the Turkic world. Our 2040 vision road map and 2022-26 strategic document will be our guide,” Erdoğan concluded.
The Turkic states on Thursday voiced the need to develop a response mechanism against natural disasters. During his opening remarks, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that many people were affected and killed by the earthquakes that jolted southeastern Türkiye last month. “Our fraternal peoples have come together through various calamities over the millennia,” Mirziyoyev said. He also proposed, at the initiative of the OTS, to mark Feb. 6 as a day of “remembrance and unity” for those who died due to the Kahramanmaraş-centered quakes.
The People’s Council of Turkmenistan Chairperson Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that he hoped the OTS would accept Turkmenistan as a member state. “We need to support each other as friends and brothers. … We all need to be one,” Berdimuhamedov said.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said a total of 940 search, rescue and medical personnel went to Türkiye to assist in operations in the quake-hit regions of the country, resulting in the recovery of 53 people. In addition, Aliyev said medical support was provided to 300 people, and 520 tons of humanitarian aid was delivered. He also noted that Azerbaijan and Türkiye have always stood by each other in good and bad times, emphasizing that this will continue to be the case.
During his remarks, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said, “thousands of our brothers” lost their lives during the quakes in Türkiye. However, the Kazakh people did not remain indifferent to these sufferings through the aid they provided. Tokayev also underlined the need to mobilize the efforts of the OTS against natural disasters, proposing to create an emergency management group under the organization.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov also declared the need to improve the OTS’ response mechanism to natural disasters.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary helped Türkiye right after the earthquakes, stressing the historic ties between the countries. “We are proud to support you (Türkiye) in the rebuilding process in the upcoming period,” Orban added.