Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee has welcomed the signing of a letter of commitment between New Zealand and Turkey which will see $1.3 million provided for a new school for Syrian refugee children.   “Since the start of the Syrian conflict over six years ago, Turkey has taken in more than 2.75 million Syrian refugees,” Mr Brownlee says.   “The refugee crisis is placing a major burden on Turkey and the region and New Zealand is committed to helping address the needs of these refugees, such as access to basic health care and education.   “This new, two-storey, 23 classroom school educational facility will help to meet the learning needs of Syrian children in Şanlıurfa province in southern Turkey and is part of a wider package of assistance announced in late 2015.    “The funding will also provide for purchasing essential classroom equipment such as desks and chairs. Construction is expected to start later this year.   “New Zealand and Turkey have partnered before to support Syrian refugees. In 2013, New Zealand funded the construction of three pre-fabricated schools in refugee camps in Turkey.   “New Zealand and Turkey enjoy a long history of friendship, and we are delighted to be able to partner directly with the government of Turkey to take this important project forward.

“So far, New Zealand has provided $27 million in contributions to those affected by war and violence in Syria and Iraq,” Mr Brownlee says.

Last year, the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, estimated at least 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict. More than 10 million people have been displaced.

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