Donors vow 7 bn euros for Turkey, Syria quake aid
Donors on Monday pledged seven billion euros to help Turkey and Syria recover from last month’s devastating earthquake, and Ankara laid down the bill for reconstruction more than 10 times that figure.
An EU-hosted conference sought to generate funds six weeks after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people across southeastern Turkey and parts of war-torn Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told those gathered in Brussels that the damage to his country was estimated at around $104 billion (96 billion euros).
“Regardless of its economic position, it is impossible for any country to fight a disaster of this scale alone,” he said via video link from Turkey.
The “recovery costs” for Syria are set at $14.8 billion.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who co-chaired the event, said the seven billion euro pledge sent “one key message, that the people concerned are not alone”.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said about the total amount that has been promised, that there would be 950 million euros to help people in Syria.
“The needs of survivors remain enormous and must be addressed urgently,” she said.
Von der Leyen started the fundraising by pledging one billion euros for reconstruction in Turkey and 108 million euros for humanitarian aid in Syria.
The earthquake leveled cities and displaced millions. Flash floods last week in the region added to the misery.
Aid groups had urged donors to step up their pledges after the United Nations complained about the poor level of response to an appeal it made in mid-February for urgent funding.
Achim Steiner, a senior official at the United Nations Development Programme, called the new commitments “a big step forward”.
“It is very welcome, but in terms of recovery and full reconstruction we still have a long way to go,” he told AFP.
Germany said it was doubling its support for earthquake victims to 240 million euros, while France pledged an additional 12 million euros.
Turkey is a key partner for the EU even if ties are often strained, and the EU already provides billions in aid to help its eastern neighbors home from Syria’s 12-year war.
– Syria regrets the conference –
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has been sanctioned by the West since the brutal crackdown that fueled the ongoing civil war, was not invited to the event.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Damascus said it was “bad” to hold the conference in Brussels without the participation of the Syrian authorities.
Although rescue teams and international aid quickly flowed into Turkey, humanitarian organizations faced major obstacles in reaching areas in northern Syria.
United Nations investigators say the area has become an “epicenter of neglect” as warring factions and the international community’s reluctance to provide much-needed aid have endured.
Aid has long begun to arrive in the affected areas of northern Syria, and the EU and the US have eased sanctions to try to speed up delivery.
Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s director for Syria, said the fresh pledges “could be a lifeline for many Syrians who were already struggling with hunger, inflation and poverty when disaster struck”.
“But we need a long-term solution that goes beyond just humanitarian aid,” Adham said.
Although Syrian authorities were excluded from the event, Assad has been receiving humanitarian aid from Arab leaders since the quake, in a move analysts say could be the start of improved ties.
He made his second visit since the quake on Sunday to the United Arab Emirates, which has already pledged more than $100 million in aid.
Assad’s main supporter Russia was not invited to the conference in Brussels because of the war launched by Moscow against Ukraine.