US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Türkiye to discuss support after massive earthquakes, his first trip to the NATO ally which was struck with twin quakes last week, leaving more than 35,000 people dead and devastating southern provinces.
Blinken will visit Incirlik Air Base on Sunday, through which the United States has shipped aid, and then hold talks in the capital Ankara on “continued US support,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday.
The top US diplomat will also take part in the Munich Security Conference, where the Ukraine war and tensions with China will take centre-stage, and will visit Greece, a fellow NATO ally.
The United States has flown in some 200 rescuers and contributed an initial $85 million in relief for Türkiye, deploying Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters to bring supplies to worst-hit areas.
The visit, which was being planned before the February 6 earthquake that has killed more than 41,000 people in the country and neighbouring Syria [where 5,814 deaths were reported], will be the first by Blinken to Türkiye after more than two years in office.
Blinken’s multi-nation trip
President Joe Biden’s administration views Türkiye as helpful in a mediatory role between Russia and Ukraine, including in a deal to ship grain through the Black Sea to alleviate world shortages.
The Biden administration has voiced support for Türkiye’s request to buy F-16 fighter jets.
Blinken will start his trip on Thursday in Frankfurt and then head to the Munich Security Conference, the annual gathering of leaders that is taking place a week before the anniversary of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
In Munich, Blinken will join Vice President Kamala Harris, who is part of a slew of US officials visiting Europe around the anniversary, with Biden due in Poland next week.
Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi is also expected in Munich, offering a potential chance for a meeting with Blinken, although US officials said nothing was decided.
Blinken had been due to travel earlier this month to Beijing in the first trip by a top US diplomat in more than four years, seeking to prevent tensions between the world’s two largest economies from spiralling out of control.
But he abruptly cancelled the trip after the United States said that a Chinese surveillance balloon, later shot down, was spotted over the US mainland.