Antony Blinken’s arrival in Turkey on Sunday was highly anticipated, due to the US’s long-standing relationship with Turkey and has previously provided assistance and aid to Turkey in times of crisis. The Secretary of State landed at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey’s southern province of Adana on Sunday afternoon and was greeted by Washington’s ambassador to Ankara, Jeff Flake, among other officials.
After taking a helicopter tour of the earthquake damage with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Blinken met with members of the White Helmets rescue group. The White Helmets have played a critical role in the search and rescue efforts in northwestern Syria, where international support from the UN has been lacking.
Blinken also met with the USAid Disaster Assistance Response Team (Dart), which is assisting with the recovery efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake. The Dart search and rescue team is starting to leave Turkey after 11 days on the ground, and response operations are now focused on rapidly delivering relief supplies to millions of people. Blinken’s visit coincided with the day that search and rescue operations in Turkey ended, according to the head of the country’s disaster response agency.
Washington is working through UN agencies and charities to provide emergency assistance, including hot meals, water, medical care and supplies, non-food items such as blankets, clothes, and hygiene kits, temporary shelter, and structural engineers, as well as essential mental health and psychosocial support.
On Monday, Blinken is expected to thank Turkey for its support of cross-border aid to affected areas of Syria, an issue that has reignited since the earthquake. He will hold further talks in Ankara and is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
How much aid to Turkey has been pledged already?
Last week, Washington committed $85 million in immediate humanitarian aid for Turkey, along with continuing USAid help. The additional $100 million pledged by Blinken brings the total to $185 million in aid for Turkey and Syria. The United States remains committed to doing everything it can to support the rescue, relief, and recovery efforts in the wake of this devastating earthquake.
Image Credit: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/Pool