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Qatari emir criticizes delay in helping Syria earthquake victims


Qatar’s emir said on Sunday he was puzzled by the delay in delivering aid to victims of last month’s earthquakes in Syria, adding that it was wrong to misuse humanitarian aid for political purposes, in an apparent attack on the Syrian government.

Qatar was among several regional states that backed rebels in Syria’s civil war and has previously spoken out against efforts by some countries to normalize relations with Damascus.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, speaking at the opening of the UN conference on least developed countries in Doha, stressed the need to help Syrians “without hesitation” and support Turkey’s efforts to recover from the devastating earthquake.

The death toll in Turkey has risen to more than 45,000, bringing the total toll, including Syria, to around 51,000. In Syria, the rebel-held northwestern region at war with President Bashar al- Assad was the hardest hit.

“While I wonder about the delay in the arrival of aid to this (Syrian) people, I emphasize that it is unacceptable to exploit a human tragedy for political purposes,” said Sheikh Tamim.

The United Nations has called for access by all parties to Syria, already devastated by years of civil war, to step up aid deliveries.

Relief agencies complain about restrictions imposed by the government in Damascus which they say politicize the distribution of aid. Other aid agencies say extremist rebels have blocked aid deliveries from government-controlled parts of Syria, further complicating efforts.

Qatar has provided aid to the Syrians via Turkey while other Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates have flown in humanitarian supplies directly.

Doha, like Washington, has expressed opposition to any attempt to rehabilitate or normalize relations with Assad, citing his government’s brutality during the conflict and the need to see progress toward a political solution.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.