The United States said on Tuesday it was working with local NGOs in Syria to help victims of the devastating earthquake that also hit Turkey, denying any link with the government in Damascus.
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“In Syria itself, we have humanitarian partners that the United States is funding and who are providing life-saving aid,” US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken told reporters.
“We are determined to provide this assistance in order to help the Syrian people overcome” this ordeal, he said, insisting that “these funds will of course go to the Syrian people, not to the regime” in Damascus.
Earlier, the head of operations for the US Agency for Development Assistance (USAID), Stephen Allen, had assured from Ankara that “all our humanitarian effort is now directed towards northwestern Syria”.
US aid consists of supporting rescue teams and providing shelter and food, Allen added, declining to identify these NGO partners for security reasons.
He further noted that most of the destruction in Syria was in areas not controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, in a country scarred by twelve years of war.
The United States does not recognize the Damascus government and refuses any normalization or direct reconstruction aid.
In addition, the United States is sending two rescue teams to Turkey. They are expected to arrive Wednesday morning and will head for the town of Adiyaman where search efforts have so far been limited, Allen said.
The teams, which will arrive on two C-130 transport planes, include 158 people, 12 dogs and some 77 tons of specialized equipment, he said.
“What we’re focused on right now in Turkey is deploying these teams and saving lives, to put it bluntly,” Allen told reporters.
“If they need additional assistance for populations that are homeless or need immediate help, we are certainly ready to provide it,” he added.
The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria killed more than 7,800 people, according to a latest provisional report.
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