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Blinken commits long term US aid for Turkey earthquake relief

US secretary of state says Washington will aid Turkey 'for as long as it takes' and has pledged an additional $100m in assistance to Turkey
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu at Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey, on 19 February 2023 (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged long-term support to Turkey as the country reels from the most devastating earthquake in its modern history, saying that Washington was committed to assisting Ankara "for as long as it takes".

"The United States is here to support you in your time of need, and we will be by your side for as long as it takes to recover and to rebuild,” Blinken said at a news conference Monday in Turkey.

Blinken was speaking after he travelled to the country on Sunday and visited areas wrecked by the earthquakes earlier this month, which killed more than 46,000 people in both Turkey and Syria.

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The quakes have left tens of thousands of buildings collapsed, and the current estimated cost of rebuilding in Turkey is nearly $45bn, according to a Turkish business journal. 

"Simply put, the United States is here, we stand strongly with the people of [Turkey] and the people of Syria through our NGO implementing partners, and we'll stick with it until we all get the job done," Blinken said.

Blinken also announced that the US would be delivering an additional $100m in assistance, putting the total amount of aid Washington has pledged for both Turkey and Syria to $185m.

The visit by Blinken comes at a time when Turkey and the US, two Nato allies, have been at odds over a number of issues, including an arms deal for F-16 fighter jets that Ankara has been pushing for, and the acceptance of Finland and Sweden into the Nato alliance.

Turkey has delayed the Nordic countries' admission to the defence pact, citing concerns that the countries are not cracking down on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which for decades has waged warfare against the Turkish government over Kurdish rights.

Turkey, the EU and the US have designated the PKK as a terror group due to its attack against civilian targets.

Meanwhile, members of US Congress have tied approval of the F-16 deal to Ankara retracting its opposition to the Nato enlargement.

"We're confident that Nato will formally welcome them in soon," Blinken told a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara. "And when that happens, it will enhance the security of every Nato member, including the United States, including Turkey."

However, Blinken denied that there are any links between expanding Nato and the F-16 deal.

Turkey has been looking to upgrade its fleet of fighter jets after being kicked out of a joint-F-35 fighter jet programme, following its purchase of a Russian missile defence system.

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