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Armenia’s FM in Syria as Turkey’s opposition declares solidarity with Assad

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Munich Security Conference and others, called for "urgent action to overcome the political obstacles that are blocking humanitarian assistance" to Syria.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan attends a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart following their talks in Yerevan on June 9, 2022.(Photo by KAREN MINASYAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan visited Damascus on Thursday to express solidarity with Syria following the deadly earthquake in the country. 

Mirzoyan's delegation brought 26 tons of aid. He was met at the airport by his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad and later met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s official news outlet SANA reported. 

Italy’s Agency for Development Cooperation also signed an agreement with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent on Thursday to provide more assistance to earthquake victims, according to SANA. 

Why it matters: Delivering aid to earthquake-stricken Syria is complicated by the ongoing civil war and US sanctions. However, many countries have provided aid to Syria, and Armenia and Italy were among the first to do so. Armenia sent rescuers to Syria earlier this month, while Italy sent the first aid shipment of any European country. 

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other regional states also sent rescue workers and/or aid. The help could be indicative of the Syrian government’s improving relations with the rest of the world, particularly with the Middle East. After being ostracized at the onset of the Syrian civil war, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is now in control of much of the country. Regional states have warmed to Syria as a result. 

Relatedly, Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu also sent a letter to Assad, extending his condolences over the killer earthquakes, Turkey’s ANKA News Agency reported Thursday.

“I want you to know that we feel the loss of our country and the neighboring Syrian people in our hearts. As the disaster and pain we experience have once again shown, we are partners and neighbors in our grief, we share the common pain of our peoples,” Kilicdaroglu wrote.

Turkey and Syria remain in a sort of proxy war, with Turkey supporting Syrian rebel groups fighting the government in the north. In a first after more than a decade, the two countries’ defense ministers and intelligence chiefs held trilateral talks in Moscow in December.

International observers remain cautious toward working with the Assad government to deliver aid, but are sounding the alarm on the need to address the issue urgently. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Munich Security Conference, the European Institute of Peace and the Rockefeller Foundation called for "urgent action to overcome the political obstacles that are blocking humanitarian assistance."

The immediate focus, it stressed, must be on lasting cross-border access. The statement warned, however, that engagement with Damascus will not be enough. It read, “Engagements by partial groupings or multiple bilateral actors with the regime in Damascus will not produce the type of progress that is required.”

The conference further called for “urgent high-level political attention and a more coordinated international approach” to deliver aid, especially to rebel areas. 

Both rebel and government territory in northern Syria was affected by the earthquake. 

Know more: Last week, the United Nations and the Syrian government opened two additional border crossings from Turkey into rebel territory in northern Syria for a three-month period. The situation is particularly dire in these areas due to the effects of years of war. 

Editor's note: this article was updated to include information on Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan's meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

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