Death toll rises in Turkey earthquakes
As of February 18, at least 40,642 people died in twosevere earthquakes that hit southern Turkey on February 6, according to thecountry's disaster management organization (AFAD).
After the quakes, 5,700 aftershocks have occurred, and more than430,000 people have been evacuated from the earthquake-stricken region so far,"AFAD said.
Turkey's Urbanization Ministry estimates that 84,700 buildingshave collapsed or been seriously damaged in the quakes.
Opposition parties strongly rejectpostponing elections
Following the earthquakes last week, there is growing discussionabout delaying the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Bulent Arinc, a veteran politician in the ruling Justiceand Development Party (AKP) and a former deputy prime minister, on February 13, called for thepostponement of elections.
The opposition points to a provision in the constitution thatspecifies that elections can only be postponed during the war.
On February 14, Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party(CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying, "theelection will be held on schedule!"
Ahmet Davutoglu, Former Prime Minister and Future Party leader, said any delay inthe elections would be nothing short of a "coup."
Good Party Spokesperson Kursad Zorlu also reacted to the debates onpostponing the elections due to the earthquake and said that "theelections must be held on time."
Opposition bloc gathers to discuss effects of tragic earthquakes
On February 18, Turkey's opposition bloc Nation Alliance gathered todiscuss last week's earthquakes. Following the meeting, the alliance said theessential preparations and precautions were not taken beforethe earthquakes. In the press statement, the bloc stated thatsearch and rescue activities were late and inadequate, and bureaucracy couldnot take any initiative due to the presidential system, which led to a sharpincrease in the death toll and casualties.
The alliance also supported a restriction on selling houses andland to foreigners in affected areas.
Turkey earthquakes cause more than 20 billion dollars damage
The devastating dual earthquakes that hit Turkey last weekare expected to cause2.4 billion dollars insured losses, according to catastrophe modeling companyKaren Clark & Company (KCC).
The total property damages from earthquakes would likely beclose to 20 billion dollars, KCC said.
In addition, JPMorgan said that thedirect costs of the physical structures destroyed in earthquakes might reach$25 billion, or 2.5 percent of the country's GDP. The Turkish central bankcould reduce interest rates by an additional 100 basis points to 8% at itsmeeting next week, JPMorgan added.
According to the Turkish Industry and Commerce Confederation, thedamage would cost 84.1billion dollars, including 70.8 billion for the rehabilitation of thousands ofhomes, 10.4 billion for lost national income, and 2.9 billion for lost workingdays.
Turkish Central Bank's massive donation to earthquake sparks fearsof higher inflation
On a live broadcast on February 15 evening, Turkey initiated adonation campaign for the earthquake, raising more than 115 billion lira frompeople and businesses.
The Central Bank pledged the highest amount with 30 billionlira, sparking debates about how the bank would source this funding.
Former Turkish Central Bank chief economist Hakan Kara claimed that thebank's 30 billion lira donation to the earthquake relief effort wouldfurther increase inflation in the country.
EBRD Regional Economic Outlook 2023: Turkey
GDP growth in Turkey slowed down significantly in 2022, and isexpected to fall further, to 3 per cent in 2023 and 2024 as the growingexternal financing requirements and political uncertainty associated withelections in 2023 create significant economic vulnerabilities. These forecastsdo not incorporate the potential effects of the February 2023 earthquake. It isvery early to make any firm predictions about the impact on overall economicactivity in 2023. A reasonable estimate would be a loss of up to 1 per cent ofGDP as the boost from reconstruction efforts in the later months of the year isexpected to partially offset the negative impact from the damage to supplychains and infrastructure.
As depreciation of the Turkish Lira outpaced inflation since 2015,Turkey's exports have been growing fast, benefitting from lower costs expressedin U.S. dollars. In 2022, Turkey's global exports were 20 per cent higher thanin 2017-19; its exports to Russia and Belarus almost doubled over the sameperiod as goods from Turkey filled the void left by other exporters. At thesame time, imports have also grown rapidly and the trade deficit has widenedsubstantially.
A series of fiscal and credit stimulus measures and a significantminimum wage hike for 2023 suggest that growth has taken priority overmacroeconomic stability ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for May2023.
Turkish leading retail company forces its quake-affected workerson unpaid leave
According to the Shop and Market Workers Union, retail company A101has been forcing earthquake-victim workers to take unpaid leave effectivefrom February 19 and to work in an A101 store in another province.
The union also demanded that A101 take precautions for the safetyof workers in stores damaged in the earthquake and take them on paid leave.
Police detain students protesting online education
After the devastating earthquakes, the government decided thatuniversities would switch to an online education system for the spring semesterto evacuate state-owned dormitories for earthquake victims.
On February 17, Turkish police assaulted and detained 22university students from Dokuz Eylul University in the Aegean Izmir regionwhile holding a sit-in against online education.
New border crossing opened for U.N. aid to earthquake-hitnorthwest Syria
On February 14, the first convoy of U.N. aid arrived from Turkeythrough the recently opened Bab al-Salam crossing into northwest Syriacontrolled by rebels. "The International Organization for Migration (IOM)sent 11 trucks through the Bab al-Salam crossing point," said an IOM spokesperson.
Israeli foreign minister meets Erdogan after earthquake disaster
On February 14, in Ankara, Turkish President Erdogan received Israel'sforeign minister. Israel was among the first countries to deploy rescue teams,medical supplies, and humanitarian relief to Turkey.
Minister Eli Cohen expressed condolences on behalf of the Israeligovernment and people during the meeting and stated that Israel would continueto provide humanitarian relief to disaster-stricken countries.
Cohen met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankarabefore meeting with Erdogan. During the meeting, Cohen and Cavusoglu discussedthe resumption of direct flights between the two countries, halted in 2007. Cohenalso announced that the direct flights would start on February16.
As expected, Israeli airliner, Israir landed in Istanbulfrom Tel Aviv with 146 passengers on February 16.
Armenian top diplomat visits Turkey afterquakes, meets with Turkish counterpart
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on February15 during a press conference with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan inAnkara that humanitarian aid sent by Armenia for victims of last week'sdevastating earthquake in Turkey could help the neighboring countries' effortsto normalize their relations.
"In the southern Caucasus, the process of normalization isongoing. We believe that our humanitarian cooperation will support thisprocess," Cavusoglu added.
Mirzoyan, on his part, emphasized that Armenia was dedicated tothe full normalization of relations and the complete opening of the border withTurkey".
On February 15, minister Mirzoyan visited Adiyamanprovince, where Armenian rescue teams conducted search and rescue operations.
NATO chief urges Turkey to ratify Finland and Sweden's NATO bids,visits earthquake-hit province
"The time has come for Turkey to ratify Finland and Sweden'sapplications to join the defense alliance," NATO Secretary-General JensStoltenberg said on February16 at a joint news conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister MevlutCavusoglu. Stoltenberg praised the Swedish government's strong stance againstthe Koran-burning protest in the country. Stoltenberg also indicated that bothcountries implemented the policies that Turkey requested.
Cavusoglu reiterated that Turkey could assess Finland's andSweden's NATO membership applications separately.
Stoltenberg later met withErdogan in a closed meeting in Ankara before traveling to southern Turkey tovisit earthquake-ravaged areas.
On February 16, Stoltenberg visited areas inHatay province affected by the deadly earthquakes and inspected the damagecaused by the earthquake from the air with the Turkish National DefenseMinister Hulusi Akar.
A business delegation visits Egypt, meets with prime minister asrelations warm
The Egyptian cabinet announced on February16 that Turkish companies pledged 500 million dollars in newinvestments in Egypt after a Turkish business delegation visited Egypt and metwith the prime minister for the first time in a decade.
According to the statement, the companies visiting Egypt includeindustrial growth, textiles, clothing manufacture, electronics, and medicalsupplies.
Following the earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria last week,Egypt sent five military aircraft to both countries with medical supplies andmedications.
Blinken arrives in Turkey for the first time during his tenure
On February 19, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkeyto pay his first official visit. Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base insouthern Turkey's Adana province to take a helicopter tour of theearthquake-stricken region with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.
On February 20, Blinken will have bilateral talks in Ankara. He isalso expected to meet with Turkish President Erdogan.
"What should we expect from Blinken's visit to Turkey?"by Mustafa Enes Esen, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who took office nearly twoyears ago, will pay his first official visit to Turkey on February 19.
It is not hard to guess that Blinken's talks during his visit willcover sanctions on Russia. Blinken will warn Turkey about breaching sanctionson Russia.
Turkey's ratification of Sweden and Finland's membership in NATO willalso be among Blinken's priority issues. Foot dragging on the ratificationprocess causes questioning Turkey's partnership in Washington and raising voicesabout imposing new sanctions on Ankara.
However, the Biden administration prefers to convey its discomfortwith messages, symbolic sanctions, or verbal warnings behind closed doors,perhaps because it does not want to appear directly involved in the generalelections expected to be held in the coming months.
"Did U.S. pressure force Turkey to let Syrian-Kurdishearthquake aid into rebel-held northwest?" by Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor Exclusive
The first aid convoys from Kurdish-run northeast Syria wereallowed to cross into the northwest part of the country that was leveled by themassive earthquakes centered in Turkey.
The breakthrough followed a weeklong standoff between theKurdish-led, self-described Autonomous Administration of Northeast and EastSyria (AANES) and Turkish-backed Sunni rebel groups.
"I don't know for certain, but I think American pressureforced them to let the convoys through," said Salih Muslim, co-chair ofthe Democratic Unity Party — which shares power in the AANES.
"It's shameful that it took so long for permission to begranted. Lives were lost because of these dirty games," Sinam Mohamed,representative of the AANES-affiliated Syrian Democratic Council in Washington,said.
"Earthquake fans anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey amiddesperate conditions" by Maya Gebeily, Ali Kucukgocmen and HenrietteChacar, Reuters
The devastating earthquake to hit Turkey and Syria has fannedresentment among some Turks towards the millions of Syrian refugees in thecountry who are being blamed anecdotally by some for looting amid thedestruction and chaos.
Several Turks in quake-hit towns and cities have accused Syriansof robbing damaged shops and homes.
Residents and aid workers have reported looting and severalforeign aid teams briefly stopped work because of a deteriorating securitysituation.
Some offers of help on social media have been openly anti-Syrian."Quake survivors are welcome to stay in my Ankara home for a year, oncondition that they are not Syrian," said one tweet, with a picture of awooden villa. Other offers of aid or temporary housing have set the samecondition.