ANTALYA, Turkey

Turkish relief efforts following Beirut’s deadly port blast are also helping to strengthen bilateral relations, said a Turkish parliamentarian on Saturday.

“Relief efforts have started a process which will further strengthen relations between Lebanon and Turkey,” said Nazim Mavis, head of the Turkish-Lebanese Interparliamentary Friendship Group, stressing how this relief effort was spearheaded by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Lebanese officials said Turkey’s support helps them not feel abandoned, Mavis told Anadolu Agency.

Saying that Lebanon’s ties with Turkey are unique, Mavis added, “We’ve never been imperialists. We’ve never been in Lebanon to exploit it. We lived together as brothers for 400 years,” referring to the countries’ long Ottoman past.

Following the blast, at Erdogan’s instruction, 400 tons of wheat and medical supplies as well as Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) teams were sent to Lebanon, and a medical facility was set up on site.

Turkish authorities in Lebanon suggested repairing a mosque damaged by the explosion, and Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay embraced the project, and also asked about repairing a local church.

“Our approach shows our sensitivity to Lebanon’s integrity,” said Mavis.

“Lebanon’s integrity is important for Turkey. For us, Lebanon is a whole with its Christians, Muslims, Assyrians and Armenians. Turkey is ready to do whatever it can to protect this integrity.”

The powerful explosion rocked Beirut on Aug. 4 after a neglected stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse ignited.

The blast wave killed at least 177 people and flattened nearby buildings, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

It came at a time when Lebanon was dealing with a severe financial crisis along with the coronavirus pandemic.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Wednesday that property damage from the explosion could cost more than $15 billion, according to the official Lebanese News Agency.

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