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US says helping quake-hit Syria, will do more in Turkey

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The United States said Tuesday it was working with partners to provide earthquake relief in Syria despite not recognizing the Damascus government after it sent two rescue teams to neighboring Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported.

Stephen Allen, who is leading the response on the ground for the US Agency for International Development, said USAID was reorienting assistance that was already in place to help war-hit Syrians.

“We’ve got the full gamut of humanitarian response going in northwest Syria right now,” he told reporters.

US assistance in Syria is helping rescue efforts and other immediate needs, including providing shelter and food, he said.

He declined to name the non-governmental groups working with the United States, citing operational security.

But he noted that most of the devastation from Sunday’s earthquake in Syria was in areas outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad, who has wrested back most of the country after nearly 12 years of brutal war.

The United States, seeking accountability for abuses, has refused normalization including any direct reconstruction aid with Assad, who has been restoring ties with other Arab states as well as Turkey.

The United States has announced that it was sending two rescue teams to NATO ally Turkey. Allen said the teams would arrive Wednesday morning and head to the city of Adıyaman, where search efforts have so far been limited.

The teams, coming on two C-130 transport aircraft, are bringing 158 personnel, 12 dogs and 170,000 pounds (77,100 kilograms) of specialized equipment, he said.

“What we’re focused on right now in Turkey is getting those teams out and saving lives, to put it bluntly,” Allen said from Ankara.

“If they need further assistance when it comes to populations who may be without housing or need immediate assistance, we are certainly ready to provide that,” he said.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 7,100 people in the two countries, according to officials and medics.

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