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Qatar emir: ‘Exploiting human tragedy for politics unacceptable’

Sheikh Tamim of Qatar said it is wrong to misuse humanitarian aid for political ends in a country devastated by civil war.

The Emir of Qatar says he was surprised at the delay in delivering aid to victims in Syria of last month’s earthquake, adding that it was wrong to misuse humanitarian aid for political ends.

Qatar was one of several regional states supporting rebels in the Syrian civil war, which has been going on since 2011, and has previously spoken out against attempts by some countries to normalize ties with Damascus.

Speaking at the opening of the UN Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar’s capital, on Sunday, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani stressed the need to help Syrians “without hesitation” and support Turkey’s efforts to to recover from the devastating earthquake.

“Our meeting is taking place while our brothers in Turkey and Syria are still suffering the effects of the massive earthquake that hit them and affected millions,” said Sheikh Tamim.

“I emphasize the need to lend a helping hand to the brotherly Syrian people without hesitation. Exploiting a human tragedy for political ends is unacceptable. There is no way we can build a new, safer, fairer and freer world for today and tomorrow except through the path of international human solidarity.”

More than 45,000 people have died in Turkey, while nearly 6,000 deaths have been reported in Syria, where the northwestern region controlled by rebels at war with President Bashar al-Assad was hardest hit.

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

Aid groups have complained about restrictions imposed by the Damascus government, which they say are politicizing the distribution of aid. Other aid agencies say hardline rebels have blocked aid deliveries from government-held parts of Syria, further complicating the effort.

In Turkey alone, nearly 530,000 people have been evacuated from the disaster area and the Turkish government said 173,000 buildings have been recorded as collapsed or severely damaged so far, with more than 1.9 million people taking refuge in temporary shelters or hotels and public Services.

The UN estimates that 8.8 million people in Syria have been affected.

Last month, 22 were reported dead from a cholera outbreak in northwestern Syria after earthquakes hit the region, aid workers in the opposition-held area said.

“The destruction of infrastructure, water and sewage lines after the earthquake increases the likelihood of an outbreak of the disease,” the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, wrote on Twitter.