Turkey’s COVID-19 Charm Offensive is Working

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Last week the Turkish Technology Minster, Mustafa Varank, said that Turkey was working to produce testing kits in conjunction with private companies that can be exported abroad. The country is now thought to be exporting coronavirus testing kits to over 50 countries. Turkey has seen the pandemic as an opportunity to grow international ties, but questions remain over the quality of the equipment.

 

Covid-19 has bought threats of economic downturn. The EU, a major investor and market for Turkey, has been put into lockdown. Huge drops in demand have put the Turkish economy at risk. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has insisted that a deal has not been made with the IMF and that the country would focus on fiscal policy to weather the storm.

Soft diplomacy has been a prominent strategy in response to the pandemic. Face shields, N-95 masks, goggles, and surgical masks have been delivered to allied countries, including the US and other NATO nations and partners. Other equipment, including Turkish made ventilators, were also delivered to Somalia earlier in the month. According to pro-government media, up to two-thirds of the world’s countries have asked Turkey for assistance.

Face shields, N-95 masks, goggles, and surgical masks have been delivered to allied countries, including the US and other NATO nations and partners.

However, doubts have been raised over the quality of the equipment. The UK has returned and requested a refund for 400,000 gowns which were delivered, with much publicity, in April. The protective gowns for healthcare workers were deemed to not meet the quality requirements set by the British government.

Like manufacturers in China, exporting PPE and ventilators could be a push by the Turkish state to back manufacturing to offset any slumps in foreign demand for Turkish made products. But with persistence in manufacturing comes greater risks of the spread of the virus within the country. Turkey now has almost 150,000 confirmed cases and over 4,000 deaths from Covid-19. Second only to Iran, which saw a peak earlier on in the crises, in the number of cases and deaths.

Soft power will be used to rebuild relations with the international community. The coronavirus outbreak serves as a distraction from clampdowns on domestic press freedoms, policy on Syria, and operations in Idlib which have drawn widespread criticism. Erdoğan will hope that the provision of equipment to countries around the world will help to rehabilitate Turkey’s international standing.

Turkey now has almost 150,000 confirmed cases and over 4,000 deaths from Covid-19. Second only to Iran, which saw a peak earlier on in the crises, in the number of cases and deaths.

In a recent interview with pro-government news agency Daily Sabah, the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said that “while many countries defined as ‘developed’ failed in crisis management, Turkey has given the whole world a lesson in this period. This picture clearly shows the position that Turkey will take in the post-COVID-19 world order.”

Turkey’s military power strategy is meanwhile being exhibited in the Middle East. Between 8,000 and 10,000 Syrian opposition fighters are now engaged in military action in Libya. West Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) is backed by Turkey, as well as the UN. Whereas many other proxy conflicts have been dominated by Western powers, Libya is still seen as a place in which governments can vie for influence.

Whereas many other proxy conflicts have been dominated by Western powers, Libya is still seen as a place in which governments can vie for influence.

However the land-lies in the post-Covid-19 landscape it is difficult to imagine a world in which Turkey’s provision of medical equipment will not have garnered attention. Questions remain, nevertheless, as to the nature of this attention; with countries such as the UK sending provisions back, is there a risk that a soft power strategy could backfire?
 

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News.

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