Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt has thanked the people and Government of Turkey for their role in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis and maintaining regional security.
Mr. Burt, who was visiting Gaziantep, Istanbul and Ankara, met with representatives of the Turkish Government to discuss efforts to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib.
Whilst in Turkey, Minister Burt visited the founders of Hala Systems, a social enterprise funded by UK aid which is saving civilian lives by providing early warnings of incoming airstrikes by WhatsApp and on social media. The technology detects aircraft using remote sensors and machine-learning algorithms before sending early warnings to civilians through air raid sirens and social media alerts.
The Minister also met members of the White Helmets, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated civilian defence group who work tirelessly to protect the lives of civilians caught in the conflict.
Speaking from Turkey, Minister Burt said:
“Turkey is an important and longstanding friend of the UK, and I was pleased that I was able to offer the UK’s thanks to our partners in the Turkish Government for their frontline role in tackling the Syrian refugee crisis. We are encouraged by this week’s agreement between Turkey and Russia to avoid a military offensive by the Syrian regime and its allies. This agreement, if implemented in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, will help to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
“During my visit, I had the privilege of meeting members of the White Helmets, and we thank them for their service, courage and sacrifice which has saved over 115,000 Syrian lives. They must be able to continue their vital work without being targeted by the Asad regime.
“I was also deeply impressed by the innovative work of Hala Systems, a UK aid funded initiative that can offer Syrian civilians valuable minutes to get to safety ahead of airstrikes, and which has seen a 27% reduction in the number of casualties in areas under heavy bombardment.”
Whilst in Turkey Minister Burt met Mr Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Advisor to President Erdogan, and Governor Ismail Çatakli, Deputy Minister of the Interior. He thanked the Turkish government for its important role in supporting over 3.5 million Syrians displaced by the conflict, and discussed ways that the UK and Turkey can continue to work closely together.
Last week the UK announced a new aid package to provide life-saving clean water, medical care and shelter, for over a quarter of a million people in North West Syria.
Since the crisis started, the UK is the second largest humanitarian donor to the response inside Syria and has committed £2.71 billion since 2012, the UK’s largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
Last week’s package is in addition to the UK’s existing humanitarian assistance in north-west Syria. During the previous financial year, our support in Idlib Governorate has provided 654,000 people with access to clean drinking water, immunised nearly a million children under the age of five and helped over 300,000 children access education.