Blinken pledges long term aid to Turkey after devastating earthquakes

Blinken pledges long-term aid to Turkey after devastating earthquakes – Portal

  • The rescue work in Turkey is stopped
  • Pregnant women need help
  • The death toll in Turkey rises to 41,156

ANTAKYA, Turkey, Feb 20 (Portal) – Foreign Minister Antony Blinken told Turkey on Monday the United States would help “for as long as necessary” after deadly earthquakes two weeks ago when Turkish authorities carried out a large-scale demolition of damaged buildings.

Washington has sent a search-and-rescue team to Turkey, along with medical supplies, concrete-breaking machines and additional funds for humanitarian assistance, which also covers Syria.

Relations between the NATO allies have been strained over issues such as Ankara’s purchase of Russian missile defense systems, NATO enlargement and US support for Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria, which Ankara considers terrorists.

“The United States and Turkey do not agree on all issues, but it is a partnership that has … withstood challenges,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

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Cavusoglu said he and Blinken had discussed a proposed $20 billion purchase of US F-16 fighter jets, adding that Turkey would like the US government to issue a formal notification of the potential sale of F -16 sends to Congress.

Blinken toured an area devastated by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks on Sunday that killed more than 46,000 people in southern Turkey and northwestern Syria.

Total U.S. humanitarian assistance in support of the earthquake response in the two countries has reached $185 million, the U.S. State Department said.

Rescue work was halted after the February 6 earthquake. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said nearly 13,000 excavators, cranes, trucks and other industrial vehicles were dispatched to the tremor zone.

The death toll in Turkey rose to 41,156, AFAD said, and is expected to rise further, with about 385,000 homes in the country known to have been destroyed or badly damaged and many people still missing.

President Tayyip Erdogan said construction work on nearly 200,000 homes in 11 earthquake-hit Turkey provinces will start next month.

About 356,000 pregnant women in dire need of access to reproductive health services were among the earthquake survivors, the United Nations Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency (UNFPA) said over the weekend.

The women include 226,000 in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria, of whom about 38,800 will give birth over the next month.

It said many of the women had taken refuge in camps or had been exposed to freezing temperatures and were struggling to get food or clean water.


In Syria, already wracked by more than a decade of civil war, the northwest has seen the highest number of deaths. The area is controlled by insurgents fighting with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, complicating efforts to get aid to the people.

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said a convoy of 14 of its trucks drove into north-west Syria from Turkey on Sunday to help with rescue operations amid growing concerns over the lack of access.

The World Food Program (WFP) has also pressured authorities in that region to stop blocking access for aid supplies from Syrian government-controlled areas as it seeks to help hundreds of thousands of people affected by the quakes.

As of Monday morning, 197 trucks loaded with UN supplies had entered northwest Syria through two border crossings, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey have returned to their homes in northwestern Syria since Wednesday to contact loved ones affected by the devastation.

At the Turkish Cilvegozu border, hundreds of Syrians were queuing early Monday morning to cross it. Mustafa Hannan, who dropped off his pregnant wife and 3-year-old son at 7:30 a.m., said he saw about 350 people waiting.

The 27-year-old auto electrician said his family would go away for a few months after their house in Antakya collapsed and accept a pledge from the authorities allowing them to spend up to six months in Syria without losing a chance to live in Syria return to Turkey.

“I worry they won’t be left behind,” he said. “We have already been separated from our nation. Will we now also be separated from our families? If I rebuild here but they cannot return, my life will be lost.”

Reporting by Henriette Chacar, Ali Kucukgocmen, Huseyin Hayatsever and Ezgi Erkoyun; writing by Michael Georgy and Dominic Evans; Edited by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich

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