Envoys of Turkey and Syria thank India for humanitarian assistance
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A view of vehicles under a collapsed building following an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey February 7, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

India’s decision to send rescue teams to help with earthquake relief is timely, much needed and a sign of “true friendship”, said envoys from Turkey and Syria, countries hit hard by Monday’s earthquake that has claimed the lives of at least 4,500 people. India kickstarted the process of sending assistance to the quake-hit zone after a multi-agency meeting on Monday cleared the path for one of the largest humanitarian operations that New Delhi has carried out in the region in the recent past.

“The first 24-48 hours after a disaster of these proportions are the most critical, as there is hope that we can search and rescue the maximum number of those trapped in the rubble,” Turkish Ambassador Firat Sunel told The Hindu. “India’s offer of help at this critical time, sending nearly 100 experts and dog squads is very timely and very welcome,” he added. As priorities for the relief efforts change, Mr. Sunel said that New Delhi has promised to continue support. Once the search and rescue operations taper, there will be a big requirement for tents, water and provisions, said officials, and in the long-term, both Turkey and Syria face a major task in reconstruction.

When asked if political differences between Ankara and Delhi over the last few years, including over the issue of Kashmir had posed any impediments to coordination on the relief, Mr. Sunel said that there were no “obstacles” to ties between the two capitals.

“The crisis management team in Delhi reached out in the first few hours of the quake. When we are in need India has sent help immediately. When we thought we could help India, we sent aid. This is the sign of a real friendship,” Mr. Sunel said.

In 2021, Mr. Sunel— who was posted to Delhi just before the Delta wave of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across India— had overseen relief consignments of oxygen and medical aid from Turkey to India.

V. Muraleedharan, Union Minister of State for External Affairs said called on Syrian Ambassador Bassam al-Khatib to convey India’s support and commitment to help. “India is sending emergency drugs and medical equipment immediately,” he said.

The earthquake of Monday hit Syria in the northwest which has been affected by the decade-long civil war. “Cities like Aleppo, Hama, Tartus, Jableh, and Latakia, unfortunately, were hit by the earthquake,” said Ambassador al-Khatib.

He added that Damascus would ensure Indian assistance reached the quake-hit cities. “India has nothing to do with the imposed sanctions of the West and the United States. Whenever Syria needed something, India responded soon,” he said, describing India’s support as a sign of South-South solidarity.

He said Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Iran and Oman had flown in emergency medical and relief supplies and that these humanitarian measures had “broken” the Western sanctions on his country.

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