By Muhammed Ali Gurtas
ANKARA (AA) - The Turkish government provided development assistance worth nearly $18.4 billion to foreign countries over the past three years, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Sunday.
"Turkey's development aid to other countries amounted to around $3.9 billion in 2015, which rose by 65 percent to reach nearly $6.5 billion in 2016," Yildirim said in a statement.
"According to the preliminary figures for 2017, Turkey showed exemplary responsibility and left behind many developed countries by granting nearly $8 billion development aid to the rest of the world, especially to the Middle Eastern and African countries," he noted.
Yildirim stated that last year's official development assistance figures include over $7 billion humanitarian aid and said: "Our government is very sensitive about these issues because we know that pain has no language, race and religion."
According to Development Initiative's (DI) Global Humanitarian Assistance Report released last June, Turkey came in second after the U.S. among countries that contributed the most humanitarian aid in 2016.
Turkey contributed $6 billion in humanitarian aid in 2016 while the U.S. contributed $6.3 billion, DI data shows. Turkey's humanitarian aid in 2015 amounted to $3.2 billion, rising by 115 percent to reach $6 billion in 2016.
Turkey ranks first if one takes into account national incomes, considering the country's gross national income was $857 billion in 2016, while in the U.S. it was $18.7 trillion.
Turkey had ranked third in the DI report for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Yildirim said Turkey ranked sixth among the member countries of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee in 2016 -- which spent a total of $142.6 billion in development aid -- and is expecting to be in the top positions in 2017.
Noting that the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) continued its operations last year with its 60 program coordination offices around the world, Yildirim said TIKA conducted more than 20,000 projects over the past 15 years, from 2003 to 2017.
"TIKA is carrying out its projects in both near and remote regions, such as Balkans, Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasus, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Oceania," he said.
"The priority of our aid policy is to focus on social infrastructures and services to meet basic development needs, production sectors, and urgent humanitarian support to relieve crisis zones.
"Turkey will remain the world's conscience within our humanitarian responsibilities and international commitments."
The premier also noted that according to the UN data, Turkey hosts the most number of refugees -- nearly 3.5 million -- and Turkish citizens are sharing their foods, homes, and lives with those refugees.
Turkey's southern neighbor Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. While UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, Syrian regime officials say the death toll is closer to 10,000.
Turkey's official figures show it has spent more than $25 billion from its own national resources for hosting the refugees since the beginning of the conflict.