Syria's Assad thanks 'Arab brothers' for quake aid
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad thanked his "Arab brothers" on Thursday for aid supplied following last week's deadly earthquake, that saw countries in the region break with years of diplomatic silence.
The 7.8-magnitude quake hit Turkey and Syria on February 6, leaving a combined death toll of over 41,000 people.
Since then, Assad has received calls from the leaders of several Arab countries, including those that cut off ties with Syria over a decade ago over bloodshed during its civil war.
Some 120 planes laden with assistance have also landed in the country's airports, about half of them from the United Arab Emirates, which restored ties with Syria in late 2018.
"We cannot overlook expressing thanks to all the countries that stood by us since the first hours of the disaster from among our Arab brothers and our friends," Assad said, during a televised speech Thursday.
"Their aid had a major impact on enhancing our ability to confront the difficult conditions at critical hours," he continued.
At least 3,600 Syrians died in the quake, which came nearly 12 years into the country's civil war -- that has devastated swathes of the country, killed nearly half a million people and displaced millions more.
"The size of the catastrophe and the tasks that fall upon us are much greater than the available capacities," Assad said, adding that the country would continue to face deep social and economic challenges for years to come.
Aid efforts to Syria have been led by the UAE, which has been at the forefront of moves to break Damascus's isolation and bring it back into the Arab fold.
But the disaster also saw Saudi Arabia send two planes carrying aid to Syria since Tuesday -- a first in more than a decade.
Assad has also met the foreign ministers of the UAE and Jordan in Damascus, as well as receiving calls from the leaders of Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan.
Jordan is among the few Arab countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Damascus even after Syria's 2011 suspension from the Arab League over bloodshed in its civil war.
Bashar al-Assad has been accused of committing horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity during the decade-long civil war in Syria, in which his forces have killed hundreds of thousands of people, for which his government was largely shunned by Arab states and the international community.
The war has destroyed much of the country's infrastructure, especially in areas currently or formerly held by rebels, which has greatly exacerbated the effects of last week's earthquakes.