The Turkish prime minister has admitted that mistakes were made in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s earthquake. As thousands of victims in the mountainous eastern Van province queued to spend a fourth night in makeshift shelters, complaints were growing over the government’s handling. Several relief lorries – 17 from one charity alone – have been looted, while the driver of another was beaten while its load was stolen. Some victims from the majority Kurd population have accused the authorities of ethnic discrimination.
And the pro-government Today’s Zaman has even reported that the ‘Turkish President Abdullah Gül has delayed a visit he planned to pay to the city of Van on Friday [, 28 October] at the request of local authorities, who said his visit would negatively affect ongoing relief efforts. Paying heed to the request of local authorities, the Anatolia news agency reported on Thursday [, 27 October] that Gül has decided to delay his visit to a later date. Turkish officials say the death toll from Sunday’s earthquake has gone up to 534. The prime minister’s center for crisis and emergency management said on Thursday 1,650 people were injured and 185 were rescued from the rubble. On Thursday, rain and snow compounded difficulties for the thousands rendered homeless in the earthquake’. In the New York Times, Şebnem Arsu writes that “[d]ozens of countries offered assistance almost ımmediately after Sunday’s earthquake, but the government initially declined, saying it had sufficient resources. But as the level of need for shelter and supplies has become . . . clear, the government began reaching out”, adding that even an “Israeli plane delivered seven prefabricated houses and other supplies, NTV television reported, landing in Ankara, the capital, rather than a smaller airport nearer the hardest-hit area around the city of Van. Tents and more housing supplies arrived from Ukraine, France, and the United Nations. More supplies were expected from Japan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ireland, England, and Russia”. The Turkish news broadcaster NTV also reported that Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia had already started delivering aid without Turkish requests or permission, a report replicated in the newspaper Zaman.
Reiterating the fallout of the Mavi Marmara massacre, Arsu adds that Turkey’s “Foreign Ministry emphasized Turkey’s appreciation for the Israeli assistance but reiterated that humanitarian gestures during a natural disaster would not affect strained relations. Turkey is demanding an official Israeli apology and compensation for the relatives of eight Turks and an American citizen of Turkish descent who were killed when Israeli commandos intercepted a Turkish aid flotilla attempting to break the
blockade of Gaza last year”.
Not just Israel, but also Armenia is entering the fray, as reported by the AFP: ‘Armenia is to airlift aid to Turkey to help survivors of the devastating earthquake despite decades of enmity between the two neighbours, officials said on Thursday [, 27 October]. An Armenian plane carrying 40 tonnes of emergency supplies including tents, sleeping bags and blankets was set to take off late Thursday, the emergency situations ministry in Yerevan said in a statement. The ministry said that Turkey had officially requested the aid from Armenia’.
Amidst all this outpouring of neighbourly love and goodwill, the hard-nosed world of commerce does not sit still either. In the Asia Times Online Robert Cutler states that “negotiations between Azerbaijan and Turkey over natural gas deliveries have been successfully concluded, the Turkish government announced on October 26, a day after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened the first meeting of the Azerbaijan-Turkey High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Izmir. The negotiations had lasted almost two years. The question of gas quantities was not settled and will be discussed later, the Turkish newspaper Sabah reported, quoting Erdogan”. Taking the Russo-Turkish rivalry into account,
and arguably also keeping Nabucco, the Trans-Balkan Pipeline and the Iran-Iraq-Syria project at the back of his mind, Cutler adds that “it is expected that Turkey, which already receives 6.6 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) of natural gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore Shah Deniz One field, will add 6 bcm/y to that volume from Shah Deniz Two. This long-anticipated development was presaged also at the end of last month, when the Turkish energy firm BOTAS informed Russia’s Gazprom that it would not exercise an option to extend a contract for 6 bcm from Russia through the Blue Stream natural gas pipeline underneath the Black Sea between the two countries. Further discussion of quantities must now await the decision by the Shah Deniz consortium concerning that choice. British energy firm BP holds a 25.5% share of the Shah Deniz consortium and is its operator. Norway’s Statoil also holds 25.5%. Other participants include Azerbaijan’s SOCAR (10%), France’s Total (10%), Iran’s NICO (10%), and Turkey’s TPAO (9%), and Russia’s Lukoil (10%). The negotiations on gas deliveries had been given new impetus following a summit meeting between Aliev and Erdogan in late July. Afterwards, diplomatic and industrial figures from both countries went on the public record to say, and to say repeatedly, that the agreement would soon be ready. Talks resumed in early August, three weeks before the date formally set for them to start again, following the instructions from the two leaders. The refinery is being built by the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) and the Turkish energy company Turcas Petrol, at a cost of almost US$5 billion. It is Turkey’s largest private sector investment and will create 10,000 construction jobs, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. It is planned that by 2015 the complex will include a refinery, an oil processing facility for almost 70 million barrels of oil, and a container terminal with integrated port and logistic area. Associated with it will be a technical and vocational school named after Heydar Aliev, leader of post-Soviet Azerbaijan from 1993 until his death in 2003 and father of the current president, where students will also receive training in the Azeri language, which is highly mutually intelligible with Turkish. Economists project that the complex will decrease Turkey’s current account deficit by $2 billion, decreasing the country’s imports of such products as jet fuel and naphtha. The Turkish newspaper Zaman, which is close to government circles, noted that the facility, to be called the Star Refinery, will not depend upon a single source. Rather a “flexible production process” would be able to handle the various grades of crude from Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq (Kirkuk), and Russia (Urals blend)”. It would appear that Turkey’s future as an energy hub is all but secure . . .
 Şebnem Arsu, “Aid Arriving in Turkey Quake Area”.
 Robert M Cutler, “Azerbaijan, Turkey sign gas delivery deal”.