ANKARA : Armenia extended Türkiye a “hand of friendship” after last week’s twin earthquakes that have so far claimed the lives of nearly 35,420 in the country, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
“Armenia extended a hand of friendship in this difficult time, and demonstrated solidarity and cooperation,” Cavusoglu said at a news conference with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in the capital Ankara.
Cavusoglu said Mirzoyan’s visit to Türkiye was “meaningful.”
The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors on Feb. 6 were centered in Kahramanmaras province and struck nine other provinces – Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, and Sanliurfa. More than 13 million people in Türkiye have been affected by the devastating quakes.
Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that struck in the space of less than 10 hours.
Noting that Armenia sent a 28-person search and rescue team to Türkiye after the quakes, Cavusoglu said their efforts have continued in Adiyaman since Feb. 8.
“They sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid and said they would send additional aid,” he added.
Stressing that Türkiye remembers the 1988 earthquake that shook Armenia, Cavusoglu said: “After that earthquake, Türkiye’s aid was delivered to Armenia by passing through the Alican border gate. Humanitarian aid from Armenia came to our country through the same border gate. We need to continue this solidarity.”
The Türkiye-Armenia border reopened for the first time in 30 years after the quakes in southern Türkiye to facilitate the passage of humanitarian aid to disaster victims.
On the ongoing process of diplomatic normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Türkiye, Cavusoglu said progress would “contribute to the peace and prosperity of our region.”
Lasting stability in the South Caucasus is also important for economic development, he added. “We also talked about the steps to be taken in the normalization process, one of them is the reconstruction of the Silk Road Bridge. The reconstruction of the Silk Road Bridge will be very meaningful and we will work together on this issue.”
‘Armenia willing to build peace’
Mirzoyan, for his part, expressed Armenia’s willingness to build peace in the difficult times.
“I would like to reaffirm the preparation and will of the Republic of Armenia, especially for the complete normalization of relations with Türkiye, the establishment of diplomatic relations and the full opening of the border between Armenia and Türkiye,” he added.
The minister said the international community should not remain indifferent in wake of humanitarian crises and must act together to overcome them.
He also noted that a second party of humanitarian aid had been dispatched through the border gate on Tuesday night and would “soon reach Adiyaman to those affected by the earthquake.”
The Armenian top diplomat is expected to later visit Adiyaman province, where the search and rescue team from his country continues to work.
Despite Türkiye being one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence in 1991, the two countries have been divided on a range of issues, including Yerevan’s occupation of Azerbaijani territories, the events of 1915 during the reign of the Ottoman Empire and the border closure between the two neighboring countries since 1993.
In 2021, Ankara and Yerevan mutually appointed special representatives to normalize ties. — AA