US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has visited Türkiye following the February 6 twin earthquakes in the country that also affected northern Syria, and pledged a further $100 million in aid to help the region.
“This is going to be a long-term effort,” Blinken said at Incirlik Air Base, a joint US-Turkish facility that has coordinated the distribution of disaster aid, after taking a helicopter tour of one of the worst affected provinces on Sunday.
“When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of homes that have been destroyed, it’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild,” the top US diplomat said.
US President Joe Biden announced $85 million for Türkiye and Syria days after the earthquake that has killed more than 46,500 people in the two countries.
The US has also sent a search and rescue team, medical supplies and equipment. The additional aid includes $50 million in emergency refugee and migration funds and $50 million in humanitarian assistance, Blinken said.
Priority is assistance
The secretary of state is making his first trip to NATO ally Türkiye since he took office two years ago. Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base, near Adana, on Sunday after attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
He toured Türkiye’s Hatay province from the air with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He was expected to meet with US and Turkish service personnel, as well as Turkish military families affected by the earthquake.
“The most important thing right now is to get assistance to people who need it, to get them through the winter and to get them back on their feet,” Blinken said as troops nearby unloaded boxes of aid.
“We’ll stick with it until we get the job done.”
Incirlik, home to the US Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, has been a crucial logistics centre for aid distribution.
Supplies from around the world have been flown into the base and sent by truck and helicopter to those in need, including in difficult-to-reach villages.
Blinken is set to fly to Ankara later on Sunday for discussions with Turkish officials on Monday, including an anticipated meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
As well as the effects of the earthquake, Blinken is expected to discuss Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO, which Türkiye has stood against as the countries, particularly Sweden, have yet to take necessary steps against terrorism.