No discrimination on foreign quake aid: Gül

Turkish President Abdullah Gül says Turkey is now accepting quake aid from any foreign country willing to offer it as the country reverses its earlier decision.
President Abdullah Gül. AA Photo.

President Abdullah Gül. AA Photo.

Turkey is not discriminating between countries that have offered help in the wake of a devastating earthquake in Van, President Abdullah Gül said on Oct. 26, as Israel announced it would send prefabricated houses to the disaster-struck area after Ankara gave the green light for foreign aid.

“There are many countries offering assistance. The Turkish Foreign Ministry made an announcement for specific assistance at the moment the need emerged,” Gül told reporters.

Gül said that not only Israel, but other countries were also sending aid when asked about his phone conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israel’s assistance for Van.

“There is no discrimination against any country,” he said, adding that Azerbaijan and Iran had sent assistance immediately after the quake without giving prior notification to Ankara.

The president announced plans to visit the disaster areas in Van on Oct. 28.

“We are making evaluations as we don’t want to disrupt the relief work there,” he said, adding that the presidential reception for Republic’s Day on Oct. 29 was canceled due to both the earthquake and recent deadly terror attacks.

After initially turning down offers of foreign assistance, Turkey said on Oct. 25, three days after the quake, that it needed international aid for “the reconstruction of the quake-hit region,” Turkish diplomatic sources said.

There is need for tents, prefabricated houses and living containers in “the reconstruction phase following the search-and-rescue efforts” and therefore Ankara is still turning down other offers such as medicine and food, the source told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Japan became the first country to respond to the Turkish call as its embassy in Ankara announced that the Japanese International Cooperation Agency was sending around $400,000 and tents. Israel, Britain, France, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Qatar and Jordan were among other countries that followed suit.

An Israeli plane was expected to land in Ankara late no Oct. 26 after the HDN went to press.

With deep crisis in bilateral ties and Turkish air space closed to Israeli military aircraft, Tel Aviv was sending the cargo on a commercial plane, officials said, adding that the aircraft was bringing seven prefabricated houses and tents. More shipments from Israel were expected to follow.

The undersecretary of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Udi Şani, voiced hope that the Israeli assistance would contribute to warming bilateral ties, which nosedived after Israeli forces killed nine Turks on a Gaza-bound aid ship in May 2010.

Last December, Turkey had sent fire-fighting planes to Israel to help battle massive forest fires.

The EU announced it would also extend support, saying that a financing plan would be outlined by Oct. 31 for supplies that would target mainly the quake victims’ urgent need for accommodation in windy, cold conditions.

Immediately after the quake, the EU also activated satellite systems aimed at helping Turkey by supplying data about seismic activities and weather conditions.

Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Bahman Hosseinpour and embassy staff said on Oct. 26 they would donate blood.

Although many other countries, including Armenia, had offered assistance in the wake of the earthquake, many have not yet confirmed whether they will be able to provide the materials Ankara is requesting. Turkey has notified about 40 countries and international organizations of its immediate needs.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 26 that death toll from the quake in Van stood at 461, with 1,352 people injured.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News