During his first official visit to Turkey, the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, has announced an additional aid of 100 million dollars, 14 days after the deadly earthquake on February 6.
“When you look at the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of floors, the number of houses that have been destroyed, it’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild and we are committed to supporting that effort.”said Blinken, who flew over the devastated southeastern province of Hatay by helicopter.
“We are adding $100 million to help those in desperate need”he added.
The United States deployed search and rescue teams to Turkey the day after the earthquake, which also struck northern Syria, releasing an initial $85 million in humanitarian aid.
Blinken met his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the Incirlik airbase in the south-east of the country, before traveling to Ankara, where he he is scheduled to meet Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.
Death toll exceeds 47,000 in Syria and Turkey
It is from this base in Incirlik that part of the humanitarian aid, especially from the United States, is sent to the areas affected by the earthquake, which is the worst catastrophe for Turkey at present and which, according to the latest balance, has left 40,689 dead alone in this country.
The US Secretary of State then accompanied Cavusoglu on a helicopter flight over Hatay province.
He also met in Turkey with representatives of the White Helmetsa Syrian rescue group operating in rebel-held areas of Syria.
After the meeting, the head of US diplomacy tweeted: “It is an honor to meet with representatives of the Syrian civil defense in Turkey today. Thank you for your heroic efforts to save Syrians in the aftermath of the earthquake. The United States is proud to stand with you and other organizations providing vital aid in response to this tragedy. .”
Farouk Habib, deputy chief of the White Helmets, expressed gratitude to Blinken for the US support in the aftermath of the earthquake, while Blinken offered his condolences and praised the “heroic efforts” of the rescuers, the White Helmets posted on Twitter.
Blinken will meet this Monday with Erdogan
This is the first trip by the US Secretary of State to Turkey since he took office two years ago.
Both countries, allies in NATO, maintain a sometimes turbulent relationship.
Blinken is scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday to discuss the differences between the two countries.
In particular, Turkey describes as “terrorists” the Syrian Kurds of the YPG (People’s Protection Units), who are leading the fight, backed by an international coalition led by Washington, against the jihadists of the Islamic State.
Disputes also include possible F-16 fighter jets for sale promised by President Joe Biden to Turkey, but which remains blocked by congressional opposition, and the Turkish blockade of Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO.
However, the United States recognizes the constructive role played by its ally, especially in relation to the war in Ukraine.
After Turkey, Blinken will end his European tour in Athenswhere he will hold a series of talks on Monday afternoon and Tuesday with the authorities of this country, a historical rival of Turkey but also a NATO partner.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday that the earthquake “could be an opportunity” to redefine relations between Ankara and Athens, which was one of the first European countries to send rescue teams.
Almost the end of the search
Turkey announced on Sunday that it was ending most of the search.
“In many provinces, the search work has ended. They continue in the provinces of Kahramanmaras and Hatay, in about 40 buildings”said Yunus Sezer, head of the government’s rescue agency (Afad).
In addition to more than 265,000 Turkish rescuers, about 11,500 foreign rescuers have joined the search and rescue efforts, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
No new survivors have been recovered from the ruins for more than 24 hours, after a couple was rescued on Saturday, 296 hours after the earthquake, in Antioquia, the capital of Hatay province.
In the last three days, seven people have been pulled alive from the rubble, all of them in Antioquia, including the couple’s son, who died shortly after being rescued.
Source: Euronews Español