House approves resolution mourning Turkey, Syria earthquake deaths; condemning Assad

A man carries buckets as he walks among destroyed buildings after the earthquake in Samandag, southern Turkey, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. The number of people killed in the Feb. 6 earthquakes that devastated parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria continues to rise. As chances of finding more survivors dwindled, some foreign search teams that rushed in to help have started leaving. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

The House on Monday approved a resolution that mourns the loss of life in a series of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and strongly condemns the Assad regime for what it says are efforts to “cynically exploit the disaster to evade international pressure and accountability.” 

The measure was approved in a bipartisan 412-2 vote. Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were the only “no” votes.

House leaders brought the resolution to the floor nearly one month after two massive earthquakes — one with a magnitude of 7.8 and the second one a magnitude 7.5 — struck Turkey on Feb. 6.

The two quakes were followed by more than a thousand aftershocks in both Turkey and northwest Syria.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria has surpassed 50,000, according to Reuters, which cited figures released by both countries.

The resolution specifically condemns Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of exploiting the disaster to move back onto the global stage after years as an international pariah and to acquire international aid despite his abuses during the country’s ongoing civil war.

“American families’ prayers and sincere condolences go to the people of Türkiye and Syria. To the brutal Assad regime and its backers — war criminal Putin, the authoritarian ayatollah in Iran — there will be a message: your diversion of humanitarian aid during an earthquake is despicable,” Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), the sponsor of the resolution, said on the House floor during debate Monday.

“The U.S. Congress stands united. We will never normalize with you. We will hold all those who attempt to normalize with you accountable, and we will not stop supporting the people of Syria to have a government they deserve based on democracy with rule of law, not authoritarians with rule of gun,” he added.

The resolution says the Assad regime prevented the United Nations from providing assistance through border crossings that lay between Turkey and Syria. Last week the U.N. said three border crossings had been operational for the delivery of earthquake aid, but the resolution “Calls on the Biden administration to continue to use all diplomatic tools, including through the United Nations Security Council, to open all Türkiye-Syria border crossings for United Nations assistance.”

Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), a co-sponsor of the measure, called Assad’s moves “reprehensible and cynical.”

The measure also calls for an “increased oversight mechanism” that would be used to ensure that funds from the U.S. are not diverted to benefit the Assad regime.

Additionally, the resolution mourns the loss of life in both countries that was caused by the quakes and expresses “deep condolences” for the families of the victims. It also applauds humanitarian aid and rescue workers for their “heroic work” on the ground that helped save lives and tend to victims, and civilians who “selflessly volunteered to assist with response to the devastating aftermath.”

Tags Bill Keating Joe Wilson Vladimir Putin

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