Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the Fifty-Ninth Session of the General Assembly Under Agenda Item 39 Entitled "Strengthening of the Coordination of Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Assistance of the United Nations , Including Special Economic Assistance"
My delegation has already aligned itself with the statement made by the distinguished representative of Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union. I would also like to stress the following:
Our deliberation today, underlines once again the deep shock and profound sorrow of the international community. The loss of more than 160 thousand lives and the extensive devastation as a result of the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe in the Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean have been a human tragedy.
Our meeting today re-emphasizes the determination of the international community to provide full support and assistance to the governments and peoples of the affected countries in their efforts to redress their wounds and launch a rehabilitation and reconstruction campaign. Our meeting therefore is most timely and appropriate.
We all have full confidence in the determination and resilience of the stricken-nations to rebuild their countries as soon as possible. Yet, the more the international community is prepared to help, the sooner the reconstruction of these countries could be realized. So far, the international community has acted with compassion and generosity. It is equally important that the support and assistance of the international community should continue unabated.
The Turkish nation which had unfortunately experienced a major earthquake in 1999, wholeheartedly sympathizes with the nations affected by the latest natural disaster. On this sad occasion, I would kindly ask the distinguished representatives of these countries to convey, once again, to their own governments and peoples, the heartfelt condolences of the Government and people of Turkey.
Speaking of Turkey, Mr. President, my government immediately joined others in responding to the emergency needs of the region. As a first step, cash donations were made to the countries affected. A search and rescue team was rushed to the area. Food, medicine, medical equipment and water purification units were flown to the two hardest-hit countries, namely Indonesia and Sri Lanka. A Turkish Red Crescent team is in the region and will remain there to contribute to the humanitarian relief operations for the next five months. A medical team of 37 people, out of which 15 are doctors, will soon start offering medical services to the inhabitants of the Ache region of Indonesia. Turks in Turkey as well as around the world are participating actively to the fund-raising campaigns initiated by our Government as well as by private and civil organizations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is also actively involved in a donation campaign of its own. As of today, the official and private donations and contributions of Turkey are in the vicinity of 15 million Dollars. Turkey will continue to do everything possible to help alleviate the suffering of the tsunami victims.
In my capacity as the Chairman of the OIC Group, I conveyed to Your Excellency our Group's support for the proposal of the ASEAN Group to call the UN General Assembly to a meeting today. I would also like to reiterate the deep sorrow of the OIC Group as well as its determination to be in full solidarity with the Missions of the relevant countries.
As you will recall, the Secretary-General of the OIC has made an appeal to the member countries on 1 January 2005, for mobilizing assistance to the region. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mr. Gül, in his capacity as the current Chairman of the OIC Foreign Ministers, has also sent a letter to the Foreign Ministers of 56 member countries to support the said-appeal. A committee, composed of the Secretary-General of the OIC, the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, is established to coordinate the humanitarian and relief assistance by member countries for the victims, particularly for orphans in Indonesia. Members of the OIC and its subsidiary institutions and organs are trying their best to help disaster-stricken countries and will continue to do so.
We all know that we cannot bring back those who have perished. But, the international community must take all the measures so as not to face such a tragedy ever again. Hence, Turkey strongly supports ASEAN's decision to establish a regional mechanism on disaster prevention, particularly a regional early-warning system in the Indian Ocean and the Southeast Asia. My country stands ready to contribute as much as it can to the international efforts in this field.
Last, but not least, I would like to express our deep appreciation and sincere commends to the Secretary-General, the Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and all other UN bodies and agencies for their prompt action and tireless work to initiate and coordinate the largest humanitarian relief effort in the Organization's history.
Thank you, Mr. President.