Earthquake in Turkey and Syria: 7 billion euros in international aid pledges
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in a press conference at the end of a donors’ conference after the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, in Brussels, March 20, 2023 (AFP / John THYS)
International donors pledged Monday in Brussels to provide 7 billion euros in aid to the populations of Turkey and Syria affected by the earthquake of February 6, which killed more than 56,000 people and damage estimated at more than 100 billion. euros.
“Commitments today total seven billion euros,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the six-month EU Council presidency, said after a conference Donors International organized in Brussels.
Of these 7 billion, some 950 million euros go to the Syrian population, detailed the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The majority of aid pledges go to Turkey, where the toll from the earthquake was heaviest.
– “A beginning” –
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, at a press conference in Brussels after a donor meeting for Turkey and Syria on March 20, 2023 (AFP/John THYS)
Ms von der Leyen welcomed “a good day for international solidarity” but stressed that the conference, which was attended by more than 60 delegations, “was only the beginning”.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she acknowledged, adding that a donors’ conference solely dedicated to the Syrian people would be held in Brussels on June 14-15.
The Commission has pledged to provide €1 billion in aid for the reconstruction of Turkey, and €108 million in humanitarian assistance for Syria. The European Investment Bank has announced 500 million euros in loans for Turkey.
Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), considered that the outcome of the conference was “a big step forward”. “But we still have a long way to go,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indeed estimated at “some 104 billion dollars” (97 billion euros) the total cost of the damage in his country.
“It is impossible for a country to fight alone against a disaster of this magnitude,” he pleaded, speaking by videoconference.
Millions of people saw their homes destroyed in the earthquake-affected area in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, home to a large population of refugees or displaced by the Syrian conflict.
In Syria, the cost of emergency repairs has been estimated by the UN at 14.8 billion dollars (13.8 billion euros).
Germany has announced that it is doubling its aid for earthquake victims to 240 million euros. France indicated that it was adding twelve million to the thirty million already announced for the two affected countries.
The magnitude 7.8 quake, followed by another nine hours later, left 50,096 dead in Turkey, according to the latest official report. In addition, 5,954 people also lost their lives in Syria, according to a compilation made by AFP.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, candidate for his own succession on May 14, promised a reconstruction at no cost, “in one year”.
Even if relations are often tense, Turkey is a key partner for the European Union, which has paid more than five billion euros to this country to help it cope with the reception of Syrian refugees.
“We welcome four million refugees, including 3.5 million Syrians. As we heal our wounds, we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people, who have also been affected by the earthquake,” Erdogan said.
– Damascus excluded –
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a joint press conference in Brussels after a donor meeting for Turkey and Syria on March 20, 2023 (AFP/John THYS)
On the other hand, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sanctioned by the West since the repression in 2011 of the popular uprising which degenerated into civil war, is not associated with the conference.
What the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs “deplored” in a press release.
Although international aid was quickly sent to Turkey after the earthquake, humanitarian organizations faced major difficulties in providing support to the Syrian population, particularly in the rebel area of Idlib (north-west).
The EU and US have since eased sanctions on Syria, and Damascus has agreed to allow the UN to open two more border crossings to help deliver aid.
“Let it be clear, the European Union is not working with the Assad regime. partner humanitarian organizations.
Russia, Damascus’ main ally, was excluded from the Brussels donors’ conference because of the war in Ukraine.
© 2023 AFP
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