Turkey was hit with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on Sunday that has killed at least 279 people, with the nation already receiving offers of assistance from a couple of nations whose relations with Turkey are complex to say the least: Israel and Iran. As of Monday afternoon it was unclear what aid, if any, Turkey would accept.
The United States Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center said the quake struck Sunday afternoon in Turkey, not too far from the city of Van. According to a press release on the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency website, the death toll had reached 279 as of 5 pm Turkish time on Monday. The number of injured was reported to be 1,300, with more than 2,200 damaged buildings.
While the quake wrought tragic destruction on Turkish civilians, it’s impact on Turkish diplomacy remains to be seen as Israel and Iran expressed a willingness to help. The two nations are arch-enemies with each other, but both also have complicated relations with Ankara.
Iran is a friend of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, whom Turkey has strongly condemned for violence against protesters. Relations with Israel hit the lowest point in decades last month over the aftermath from the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.
Aside from the offers from the two regional rivals, the US and Germany were also among those who offered assistance.
While just referring to offers of aid in general, a Turkish official from the Embassy to the US on Monday expressed the nation’s gratitude in comments to The Mideast Update.
Speaking by email, Turkish Embassy Spokesman Rauf Alp Denktas said, “We note with appreciation the messages of condolences and offers for assistance, which will be considered in the coming days in accordance with the possible needs that could arise.”
The press release from the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency also said that the Turkish government is thankful for aid offers. At the same time, it also noted that “any international aid request by Turkey has not been declared.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated their aid offer to Turkey on Sunday in comments with visiting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that were posted on the Prime Minister’s Office website.
Noting Turkey’s assistance in a devastating fire in Israel in late 2010, Netanyahu was quoted as saying, “Just as Turkey aided Israel during the Carmel wildfire, so too do I hope that it will respond to our proposal and accept the assistance that we are offering.”
Haaretz reported that Netanyahu actually spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the first time in 10 months to offer assistance on Monday, with Israeli sources saying Erdogan thanked Netanyahu. Haaretz reported that Turkey had declined multiple assistance offers on Sunday, including Israel’s.
It remains unclear if that stance could change, with the Turkish Today’s Zaman reporting that Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç denied that Israel’s offer had been rejected on political grounds. Instead the idea was that Turkey had turned down a number of offers for now as they do not feel they need outside assistance at this time.
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani sent a message offering Iranian assistance on Monday. The condolences and aid offer were sent to Turkish parliamentarian Cemil Cicek and Erdogan according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 24, 2011)