Armenia to send rescue teams to Syria, Turkey after devastating quake

Turkey Earthquake centers on the map

By Mark Dovich

A spokesperson for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday the country would be sending search and rescue teams to Syria and Turkey after a devastating earthquake in the region left at least 5,000 dead and tens of thousands more injured.

Earlier, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had said his government was “ready to provide assistance.”

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday morning, leveling thousands of buildings across southern Turkey and northern Syria. It was one of the strongest earthquakes to strike the region in at least a century.

With hundreds of people believed to remain trapped under the rubble and rescue operations hampered by inclement weather, the death toll is expected to rise significantly. A World Health Organization official told Agence France-Presse the death toll could top 20,000 people.

At least six Armenians, four in Syria and two in Turkey, are reported to be among the dead.

The earthquake prompted an outpouring of sympathy from around the world, with dozens of countries pledging support. Azerbaijan, the European Union, and the United States have already deployed disaster response teams to Turkey.

Armenia and Turkey recognize each other but have no formal diplomatic ties. The two countries’ border has been closed since the early 1990s, and relations remain tense to this day.

After a powerful earthquake struck near the Turkish city of İzmit in 1999, Armenia prepared to send search and rescue teams, but Turkey turned down the offer of help.

“The real reason for the snub, not stated openly, but widely understood in both countries, is Turkey’s unwillingness to move toward normal diplomatic and trade relations with its eastern neighbor,” the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

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