US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledges $100 million to help earthquake-hit Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sit in a helicopter for a tour of earthquake stricken areas, in Turkey, 19 Feb '23
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu sit in a helicopter for a tour of earthquake stricken areas, in Turkey, 19 Feb '23 Copyright CLODAGH KILCOYNE/AP
By Euronews with AFP
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Visiting Turkey for the first time, the US Secretary of State announced an additional $100 million to Turkey aimed at helping the country's long-term recovery from devastating earthquakes..

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States will pledge a further $100 million (or €93.5 million) in aid to Turkey following the devastating earthquake that hit two weeks ago.

The announcement of the aid package comes as rescue efforts in impacted regions have ended in all but two provinces, Hatay and Kahramanmaras - the earthquake’s epicentre.

The 7.8-magnitude tremor that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6 has killed more than 45,000 people, with the likelihood of finding survivors two weeks on extremely unlikely.

No survivors have been found in the last 24 hours.

The head of Turkey's disaster agency Yunus Sezer said search and rescue efforts continued at around 40 buildings in the provinces on the 14th day, but expected this number to fall by Sunday evening.

Blinken in Turkey

Washington's top diplomat met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey.

Blinken and Cavusoglu then flew in a helicopter for an aerial view of the damage caused by the disaster in the Hatay province

The new aid "will be moving soon. Sadly, it's less about search and rescue but long-term recovery. This is going to be a long-term effort", Blinken told reporters.

"It's going to take a massive effort to rebuild but we're committed to supporting that effort," he added, saying the United States had now contributed $185 million (€174.5 million) in assistance to Turkey and Syria.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said Saturday that some 105,000 buildings either collapsed, needed to be demolished or were severely damaged.

Rocky relations

Blinken is in Turkey for talks meant to focus on NATO expansion and other thorny issues, but the devastating earthquake has overshadowed the visit -  his first visit to Turkey since being appointed Secretary of State in 2021.

US-Turkey relations have been strained in recent years, but Washington has since viewed Ankara as helpful for its mediatory role between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow's invasion last year.

Turkey wants to buy F-16 fighter jets, but the sale is being blocked in Congress due to concerns over Turkey's human rights record and threats to Greece.

Blinken will also likely discuss Turkey's refusal to ratify Sweden and Finland's NATO membership applications.

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