New Zealand offers search, rescue expertise to Syrian 'White Helmets'

Updated: 2016-10-26 11:31


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New Zealand offers search, rescue expertise to Syrian 'White Helmets'

Vice-president of the Syrian White Helmets Abdulrahman Almawwas (L) and president of the civil committee of Aleppo Agi Hasan Brita attend a news conference at the French National Assembly in Paris, France, October 18, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]

WELLINGTON - The New Zealand Fire Service is to help train civil defense rescuers in war-torn Syria, the government announced Wednesday.

The four-month training program, to start at the end of October, would help to train the Syrian Civil Defence Organization, also known as the "White Helmets," Foreign Minister Murray McCully said in a statement.

The White Helmets had helped save the lives of thousands of people during the conflict in Syria, he said.

"New Zealand has agreed to provide assistance with training to the White Helmets and this practical initiative sits alongside the work we are doing on the UN Security Council to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria and to push for an end to the conflict," said McCully.

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said a New Zealand Fire Service urban search and rescue expert would travel to Turkey and Jordan in the next month to help improve the training of White Helmet volunteers.

The expert would train volunteers in urban search and rescue, and "show our support for a volunteer organization which is doing remarkable work in badly damaged cities like Aleppo," Dunne said in the statement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade would contribute around 100,000 NZ dollars (71,620 US dollars) to the training project, bringing New Zealand's assistance to those affected by violence in Syria and Iraq to more than 25 million NZ dollars (17.9 million US dollars).