Despite battling its own coronavirus outbreak, Turkey has been offering essential protective equipment, testing kits and even ventilators to countries in need.
Turkey has put international co-operation at the forefront of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Part of this has also included providing essential frontline aid to many countries.
Over the last 20 years, Turkey’s economic rise has ensured that it has become a global trading partner and an essential component of the supply chain. These business networks and political links are now being used to export Turkish aid.
Aid to close allies
On Friday 11 April, Turkey announced that it would be sending aid to its long time UK ally.
"At the direction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Armed Forces aircraft that will transport to the United Kingdom the medical aid supplies prepared by Turkey’s Health Ministry to be used in the fight against COVID-19 has departed Etimesgut/Ankara," Anadolu Agency reported.
Britain is one of hardest hit countries as a result of the coronavirus with more than 70,000 infections and almost 9,000 deaths.
The move is in addition to the aid it will send to the Libyan government, which is still in the midst of a civil war.
Aid to the Tripoli government could prove essential to the state which has been battered by a nine year war. The country has 24 confirmed cases of the virus and 1 death, however, the breakdown in civil order could hamper efforts to find out the true scale of the virus.
Turkey delivers aid to historic neighbours
Closer to home Turkey delivered much needed medical equipment to its historic neighbours in the Balkans as much of the European Union battles to contain the virus which saw the bloc paralysed.
"Masks, overalls, and test kits prepared by Turkey’s Health Ministry will be delivered to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo at the instructions of our President Mr [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan," announced the Turkish Defence Ministry.
Balkan countries have seen more than 5,000 infections, however, unlike their other Western European countries, the officially reported rate of infections has seemingly slowed as the countries have taken strict measures to enforce social distancing.
In North Macedonia, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) distributed 2,500 packages of food, cleaning and hygiene products with the help of a local non-governmental organization.
Turkish aid to Europe
In addition to the help that it has provided to the Balkans, the Turkish Air Force earlier this month donated medical supplies to Spain and Italy.
The two European countries have been the hardest hit in the continent with more than 300,000 infections and accounting for more than one-third of global deaths with more than 33,000 dead.
The medical supplies were donated by Turkey to its long time NATO allies and include protective gear for front line staff, disinfectants and 450,000 face masks quoting the famous Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi: "There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”
The Spanish Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya has also thanked Turkey for allowing Spain to purchase ventilators from a Turkish company.
The gesture was noteworthy because Turkey has placed restrictions on the sale of essential medical equipment as it also battles the deadly pandemic.
"Thank you, Turkey and [Turkish Foreign Minister] Mevlut Cavusoglu for authorising the export of Turkish respirators [ventilators] bought by two of our Autonomous Communities Navarra & Castilla La Mancha due to the urgency in Spain, we appreciate the gesture of a friend and ally Turkey," Gonzalez said.
Thank you #Turkey @MevlutCavusoglu 4 authorising the export of Turkish respirators bought by two of our Autonomous Communities Navarra & CastillaLaMancha in view of the urgency in 🇪🇸 we appreciate the gesture of a friend & ally 🇹🇷— Arancha González (@AranchaGlezLaya) April 4, 2020
Many EU member states have been frustrated by the slow response of the Brussels bureaucracy in helping individual countries tackle the virus.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Krasimir Donchev Karakachanov lashed out at the EU over handling of the pandemic: “It turns out that the only institution that works for the benefit of citizens in Europe is not the expensive European bureaucracy, but the nation-state."
"As you can see, we have not received a single mask from Europe so far. We get help from China, from Turkey – countries with slightly different world views regarding the role of the state and its institutions in the world," Karakachanov added.
Bulgaria has purchased more than 50,000 masks, 100,000 protective garments and 100,000 safety goggles from Turkey.
Aid to the US and Palestine
Further afield, Turkey has provided the US, which has more than 460,000 infections and so far almost 17,000 deaths, with 500,000 coronavirus test kits.
After a slow start, the US has so far conducted more than 3.3 million tests, which also explains the high number of reported infections.
Turkey is also reportedly sending aid to Israel, a country it has a fraught relationship with, as it battles the coronavirus. Israel is one of the worst-hit countries in the Middle East with more than 9,000 infections and 86 confirmed deaths.
While neither government has officially commented on the move reports indicate that Israel is also expected to to allow shipments of aid to reach Palestinian in the occupied territories.
The two countries saw a deterioration in their bilateral partnership after Israel killed 10 civilians on Turkish flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip in 2010.
It is uncertain whether the recent move by the Turkish government to authorise the export of humanitarian aid will heal the relationship between the two sides, however, it is an indication that the coronavirus could yet have a deeper impact on the international scene.
Turkish aid to other Middle East countries
TIKA also sent help packages to Lebanon as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
The campaign was initiated by the Turkish Embassy in Beirut to help over 600 families in need living in the cities of Tripoli and Akkar.
In Tunisia, TIKA sent a medical screening device to a hospital in the country.
The hospital in the capital’s Aryana region was chosen by Tunisian Health Ministry, and TIKA contributed to Tunisia's fight against the coronavirus by "providing a radiological screening system, DXR panel detector and a laser printer," said a statement by TIKA's Tunisia office.
TIKA is also preparing a project with Tunisian National Crafts Office, in order to support the production of masks, protective clothes in the country, agency's Tunisia coordinator Saliha Tuna said.