- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Turkey, feuding with the U.S. and embroiled in conflicts in Syria and Libya, is urging that the world take a break from conflicts in light of the spread of Covid-19 as the virus threatens to devastate the world’s most vulnerable nations.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a Washington videoconference Tuesday that the virus could exacerbate regional conflicts and refugee crises worldwide. Nations, he said, will either confine themselves within their borders or prevail over the virus by working together.

“The virus attacks our very core of community among nations, but we cannot abandon the idea of progress,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.

Turkey currently has over 65,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, over 1,400 dead, and nearly 7,500 recovered patients. The minister told an Atlantic Council press briefing that strict travel restrictions and enforced curfews have helped to keep the number of confirmed cases relatively low so far in the country of 82 million people.

Turkey, he said, has adopted three priorities: public health, stimulating the economy and managing regional conflicts. Just last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved a stimulus package worth $15.4 billion to support struggling families and businesses.

Managing regional conflicts, especially in the Middle East, could be the most difficult chore, with Turkey already reeling from the fallout of the Syrian refugee crisis and worried about a fresh wave of refugees from recent fighting. To prevent further suffering for the world’s most vulnerable, Mr. Cavusoglu argued that world powers must pull back from military conflict.

“No one will win, but everyone will lose if the current conflicts in the Middle East continue. … [A global ceasefire] wouldn’t be possible in a piecemeal fashion; what we need is a grand bargain and decisive action,” Mr. Cavusoglu said.

Turkey is the main provider of humanitarian aid to the embattled Syrian province of Idlib, and with coronavirus shutting down borders and travel, Mr. Cavusoglu worries his country may be overwhelmed by another intense surge of refugees seeking asylum as Syrian government forces advance on rebel and Islamist forces there.

“We are very concerned this might trigger another wave of refugees to Turkey,” Mr. Cavusoglu said. “Due to the international community’s failure, unfortunately, around 1.5 million Syrians are at our doorstep.”

The U.S. has offered “strong support” in words, Mr. Cavusoglu said, but he is still waiting to see some of the pledges put into practice.

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