Turkey’s decision to decline Israeli assistance following a powerful earthquake earlier in the week leaves many wondering regarding the wisdom of Ankara’s move.
The Turkish daily Zaman reports that Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc insists that the recent breakdown in diplomatic relations between the countries was not at the heart of his government’s decision to decline recue assistance from Israel. Speaking to the media at a cabinet meeting, Arinc stated “Those who say [that Turkey declined Israel’s offer because of political tensions] are doing a very ugly thing.”
Despite offers for assistance from President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said “no thanks”, opting to manage without the expertise of the IDF’s Homefront Command search & rescue team, which is literally next door.
Despite Turkey’s hostile attitude towards Israel during recent months, the offers for assistance were immediate after news of the devastating quake spread. Reports place the death toll at over 350 while over 1,300 have been injured in the earthquake.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 55 buildings collapsed in Ercis on the north shore of Lake Van. The Turkish Red Crescent said about 25 apartment buildings and a student dormitory collapsed in the town.
Israel has responded to Turkey in the past, including a major quake in 1999.
Arınc told reporters on Monday that relations between the two governments might not be good at the moment, but he said for Turkey to reject an offer by the Israeli government on humanitarian grounds in the face of a natural disaster would be “ugly and inappropriate.”
Leaders around the world, including President Barack Obama, conveyed their condolences and offered assistance, but Erdogan said Turkey was able to cope for now. Azerbaijan, Iran and Bulgaria still sent aid, he said.
Among those offering help were Israel, Greece and Armenia, who all have had issues in their relations with Turkey.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)