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Yerevan Approves Financial Aid To Haiti

A Haitian national flag flies half mast at the collapsed presidential palace as a soldier patrols in Port-au-PrinceRFE/RL -- The Armenian government on Thursday allocated $100,000 in financial assistance to Haiti and explained its failure to send a rescue team to the earthquake-ravaged nation.

“Unfortunately, we could not carry out that because Haiti was not prepared to receive [the team] and there were numerous problems with logistics and aid coordination,” Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said during a cabinet meeting. “We had expressed our readiness to both international organizations and states providing large-scale assistance. We had informed them that our rescuers have the necessary skills, experience and capacity.”

A senior official at the Armenian Rescue Service told RFE/RL immediately after the catastrophic earthquake that its 52-strong team is due to head to the Caribbean nation via Moscow on a Russian cargo plane carrying relief aid. The Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations, to which the Rescue Service is subordinated, subsequently cancelled the mission.

In Sarkisian’s words, Yerevan has also been unable to ship humanitarian and other goods to Haiti for the same reasons. “International structures told us that there are problems with physically shipping things and that financial assistance would be more expedient,” he said.

The prime minister also said that the government has received “numerous inquiries from citizens” demanding Armenia’s involvement in the worldwide relief effort. “Our citizens’ approach is understandable because we ourselves saw and felt on our skin the consequences of an earthquake and received assistance from hundreds of nations,” he told ministers.

Sarkisian referred to the December 1988 earthquake in northern Armenia that killed some 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless.

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