Turkey ready to do whatever necessary for Lebanon
Once the Pearl of the Middle East, Lebanon is nowadays suffering from multiple crises: An almost bankrupt economy, a collapsed government intertwined with a deep mess about powers and responsibilities between different religious and sectarian groups.
Amid all these came last week’s huge blast in Beirut Port that rocked the entire city, flattening the country’s main trade port, damaging the building and affecting the lives of around one million people. More than 150 people died, more than 600 are missing and thousands have been injured.
A high-level Turkish delegation that included Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu paid a one-day trip to Beirut only three days after the deadly explosion and under these devastating circumstances.
The message was clear: Turkey will stand with its brother, Lebanon, and the Lebanese people in its difficult days and is ready to do whatever is necessary for the recovery of this beautiful country. As a journalist, I found the opportunity to join the Turkish delegation in this historic visit to Lebanon and the chance to talk with both Oktay and Çavuşoğlu on our way back.
“When we look at Lebanon, we see just one country. It’s Lebanon with its Shiite, Sunni and Christian groups,” Oktay explained, informing that his delegation met with the highest political representatives of all these groups but delivered just one message: “If you stand united, we are going to contribute all the way.”
Lebanon needs a lot of things but one of the most immediate things to do is to keep the country’s trade routes open as Beirut Port, the backbone of Lebanon’s economy, will not be operational for many years.
[HH] Turkish ports at Lebanon’s disposal
The core of Turkey’s proposals to the Lebanese authorities is therefore about the re-construction of the port and the use of Turkey’s two ports in the Mediterranean, Mersin and İskenderun, until the new port is functional.
“We have proposed that Lebanon may use our ports in Mersin and İskenderun for both customs clearance and storage. The goods to be brought to our ports by large ships and tankers can be transferred to Lebanon by smaller vessels,” Oktay told the media in Beirut. Lebanese authorities have welcomed the proposal and will study it in line with their needs, Oktay later told this columnist.
“Lebanon’s chance to recover its economy is very slim without trade and without this port. What we say is that the economy should not stop and it should not stop for all the Lebanese people with its Shiite, Sunni and Christian groups,” he said.
The re-construction of the port and supplying construction goods as well as glass are among Turkey’s top proposals. “There is no other country in this region that can do these better than Turkey. We have huge experience in the field of construction through different models of build-operate-transfer,” he added.
Turkey will continue to supply food and medical equipment to Lebanon as the country is also trying to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the vice president has underlined, informing about the continued presence of different state and non-state Turkish humanitarian aid institutions in this country.
Oktay has explained that Turkey’s help to Lebanon is not just because an explosion has occurred there. “Lebanon is not only our neighbor in the Mediterranean but a brotherly, friendly country to us. What we have observed in our meetings with the three leaders: The look on Turkey is far beyond a neighbor. They are not focusing only on healing the wounds of Lebanon but on moving forward with Turkey in the future. We also say this. Waking with Turkey in the East Med is advantageous,” he stated.
[HH] Not in competition with any country
The Turkish move towards Lebanon has just come a day after French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial visit to Beirut who had defended his intervention in domestic affairs of this country by arguing “other powers may interfere whether it be Iran, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.”
“We do not see this as an international race or a competition with another country. We are a country that is providing aid to any country in need. We are doing this for Iraq, for Syria. It was not different when we accepted four million refugees,” he stated.
“Turkey’s relations with any country were never built on colonialism or exploiting the resources of other countries. This is not happening for Lebanon either, we are building our relations on the win-win approach,” he added.