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Blinken arrives for tour of Turkey’s earthquake zone

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ISTANBUL — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in southern Turkey on Sunday and set off on a tour of the earthquake disaster zone accompanied by his Turkish counterpart.

State-run Anadolu news agency reported that Blinken and Mevlut Cavusoglu, left Incirlik air base near Adana by helicopter for nearby Hatay province, one of the areas hardest hit by the Feb. 6 quake. Blinken had earlier arrived at Incirlik, where U.S. troops are based, from Germany.

Blinken is on his first trip to NATO ally Turkey since he took office two years ago. He is due to visit a tent city in Hatay established for those displaced by the earthquake, which has killed at least 44,000 in Turkey and Syria, before touring an aid distribution center, said Turkish officials who were not authorized to be identified publicly.

On returning to Incirlik, he will meet U.S. and Turkish service personnel, as well as Turkish military families affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

The top U.S. diplomat will also inspect American aid efforts organized from the base and speak to members of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, a quick reaction group of disaster experts.

He will fly to Ankara later Sunday for discussions with Turkish officials on Monday, including an anticipated meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As well as the effects of the earthquake, Blinken is expected to discuss Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO, which Turkey is delaying, calling for Sweden in particular to tighten its approach to Kurdish rebels that Ankara considers terrorists.

*This story has not been edited by The Infallible staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.