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UAE and Saudi Arabia announce earthquake relief in Turkey and Syria

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On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million to Syria and Turkey, one of the largest sums yet in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that killed thousands.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf state, which severed diplomatic ties with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2012, said it would provide assistance.

The oil-rich UAE – which has already pledged about $13.6 million to Syria – is leading the regional relief effort, sending planes to both countries with relief materials and rescue teams in the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake early Monday.

And the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) stated that the UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, “ordered, on Tuesday, the provision of 100 million dollars for relief to those affected.” The amount will be divided equally between Syria and Turkey, each of which will receive $50 million, according to the news agency.

It was not immediately clear whether the funds for Syria included the previously announced $13.6 million.

Major General Saleh Al-Amiri, Commander of Joint Operations at the UAE Ministry of Defense, said on Tuesday that three military aircraft have been sent to Turkey, with search and rescue teams on board that have started their operations since then. He told local media that seven flights in total are scheduled to arrive in the quake-stricken countries, including two to the Syrian capital, Damascus.

On Tuesday, the Syrian News Agency (SANA) said that an Emirati plane carrying 10 tons of foodstuffs arrived at Damascus International Airport.

Saudi help

The official Saudi Press Agency said that, on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia ordered the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to “provide health care, shelter, food and logistical aid” to Syria and Turkey.

The agency added that it would also launch a public donation campaign for earthquake victims in the two countries.

The oil-rich Gulf kingdom has backed groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad during the war, and some exiled Syrian opposition figures reside in Riyadh.

But in recent years, Saudi Arabia has softened its stance against the Bashar al-Assad regime, and senior officials in the Syrian regime have said that cooperation efforts are under way.

Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter in the world and the strongest economy in the Arab world.

The aid announcement also comes on the heels of a recent rapprochement with Turkey and after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Ankara in June last year. Relations between the two countries were strained after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Meanwhile, the UAE reopened its embassy in the Syrian capital in December 2018, indicating an attempt to cooperate with Bashar al-Assad’s regime after years of boycott. In March last year, Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates – his first visit to an Arab country in more than a decade of brutal civil war.

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