UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS; ADDS REMARKS FROM TURKISH VICE PRESIDENT, FOREIGN MINISTER
By Orhan Onur Gemici and Isa Toprak
BEIRUT (AA) – Ankara is ready to send more medical assistance and food aid to help Lebanon during its time of need, Turkey’s vice president said on Saturday.
Fuat Oktay, who is visiting the Lebanese capital along with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said all of Turkey’s hospitals and air ambulances are at Lebanon’s service, as the country deals with the devastating fallout of Tuesday’s massive blast at the port of Beirut.
Speaking after a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Oktay said Ankara has told Lebanon that it can use Turkey’s Mersin port until the Beirut port is rebuilt.
“Turkey is ready to help rebuild the heavily damaged Beirut port and nearby buildings,” the vice president said.
Oktay and Cavusoglu met Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who took them to the site of the explosion.
The Turkish officials conveyed their condolences for the loss of life and property, and reiterated Ankara’s willingness to help out in all aspects.
“Our aid agency TIKA [Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency] came here immediately and brought around 400 tons of wheat to the Tripoli port [in northern Lebanon] to help with the food shortage. We also brought medicines and medical equipment,” Oktay said.
He said the pandemic still poses a threat and Turkey will continue its support to limit the pandemic’s impact.
“We have delivered respiratory devices as well. We will continue bringing in more aid over the days to come,” the Turkish vice president added.
Diab said he was sure that Turkey will do everything in its power to help Lebanon through this tough time.
He added that the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon Hakan Cakil was also part of the crisis committee formed after the explosion.
Oktay and Cavusoglu later visited the Lebanese parliament, where they met Speaker Nabih Berri.
- Meeting with Turkish families
The officials also met families of Turkish citizens injured in the Beirut blast.
They inquired about the condition of the injured and assured the families of complete support.
Oktay said patients could be treated in Turkey if doctors allowed.
Earlier in the week, Cavusoglu said six Turkish nationals were hurt in the explosion -- five suffering minor injuries and one had a surgery.
- ‘We stand with people of Lebanon’
During the visit, Cavusoglu also reiterated Turkey’s support for the people of Lebanon.
He said Ankara stands with the Lebanese people without any discrimination between Sunnis, Shias, Christians, or Arabs.
“We also stand with our kin, the Turks and Turkmens in Lebanon and around the world. We will grant Turkish citizenship to our brothers who say ‘I am Turkish, I am Turkmen,’ and express their desire to become a citizen.These are our [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s instructions,” Cavusoglu said.
According to Lebanon’s Health Ministry, at least 158 people have died and over 6,000 are injured since Tuesday’s explosion ravaged parts of the Lebanese capital.
The numbers, though, are likely to rise as efforts continue to find missing people.
The tragedy has come at a time when Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic crisis, including a dramatic drop in the value of the pound against the dollar.
* Writing by Fahri Aksut and Firdevs Bulut in Ankara