https://ift.tt/5KlJeR6. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Germany, Turkey and Greece February 16-22 ahead of the February 24 anniversary of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, and as Turkey continues its rescue operations after powerful quakes brought devastation to the NATO country last week.
Blinken is attending the Munich Security Conference that begins this Friday. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi will be among those at the three-day annual gathering.
In Munich, Blinken will participate in a series of meetings to discuss continued support for Ukraine, and assistance to Turkey and the Syrian people after the powerful earthquakes, said the State Department.
As Ukraine prepares for a new major offensive from Russia, Western leaders at the gathering are likely to renew their commitment to support Kyiv.
A senior State Department official said the United States is working on a large security assistance package that will be announced around the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion. Another new sanctions package targeting Russia and its proxies can also be expected.
The senior State Department official told reporters there is no indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is serious about diplomatic talks, but the U.S. will continue to put pressure on Russia’s economy to force Putin to the negotiation table.
Blinken’s trip to Turkey comes as rescuers race to reach people trapped under rubble more than a week after a 7.8 magnitude quake caused severe damage both in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria. The quake has killed more than 41,000 people.
“Secretary Blinken will visit Incirlik Air Base in Türkiye on February 19 to see firsthand U.S. efforts to assist the Turkish authorities responding to the devastation caused by the February 6 earthquakes,” said the State Department on Wednesday.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s urban search and rescue teams arrived at Incirlik Air Base last week to help with recovery efforts. Meanwhile, the U.S. military continues its mission to deliver humanitarian aid.
The top U.S. diplomat’s meetings in Ankara follow a visit to Washington by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on January 18. The two NATO allies have tried to mend fences over disagreements on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and NATO expansion but there is no immediate sign of progress.
Some analysts and former U.S. officials say a U.S. green light to Turkey’s request for F-16 jets would depend on two issues: Turkey not blocking the admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO, and no military incursion into northern Syria.
Blinken then heads to Greece where he will hold a strategic dialogue with senior officials in Athens.
“In Athens, Greece, Secretary Blinken will meet with Greek Prime Minister [Kyriakos] Mitsotakis, Foreign Minister [Nikos] Dendias, and Leader of the Opposition Alexis Tsipras to discuss defense cooperation, energy security, and our shared commitment to defend democracy. Secretary Blinken will launch the fourth round of the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue on February 21,” according to the State Department.
Blinken last held a strategic dialogue with Dendias in October 2021 at the State Department where the two renewed a U.S.-Greece Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Greece, Turkey’s regional rival and NATO ally, is seeking F-35 jets from the United States. Some analysts said the outcome of the proposed sale of F-16s to Ankara and F-35s to Athens would impact the air defense capabilities of the two neighbors and the power balance in the region.
Begum Donmez Ersoz from VOA’s Turkish Service contributed to this report. Some information came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
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Source : VOA