Ankara changes stance towards foreign help against fires, says 'would of course accept it'

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey “would of course” accept other countries' assistance in the fight against week-long wildfires, in what seems as a change in the government's stance towards foreign help. Another noteworthy statement came from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who thanked 73 countries for sending aid to Turkey.

Turks launched a campaign on social media with the label “Help Turkey” after the ongoing forest fires.

Duvar English

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has denied reports that Turkey rejected offers of international help, including from neighboring Greece, to battle the ongoing wildfires. He said that Turkey accepted all offers for assistance that met its needs.

“We would of course accept help from other countries, in the same way that we help others....We are facing a disaster the likes of which we have never seen," Çavuşoğlu told reporters on Aug. 3 at the Fire Management Center in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya.

He said some countries, including France and Greece, rescinded their offers because of their own needs and fires. 

The minister's comments came as Reuters reported that Israel had offered to help with the week-long blazes but Turkish officials had refused the offer, saying the situation is under control.

Turkey is also said to have rejected Greece's offer for help in tackling the fires. Citing Greek authorities, the BBC's Turkish service on Aug. 2 reported that Ankara thanked Greece for its offer, but went on to reject it.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 3 released a statement thanking countries that provided assistance to Turkey against the ongoing wildfires.

“I thank on my nation’s behalf all the friendly countries and organizations that have extended their support, sent wishes and condolences, voiced their readiness to help, and provided aid in our fight against the forest fires,” Erdoğan said on Twitter, sharing an image including the flags of 73 countries and 10 international organizations.

Ankara refrained from asking other countries for help in the face of the environmental disaster until recently. People's desperate calls on other countries for help were slammed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Turks have themselves launched a social media campaign requesting foreign help to combat the blazes. The campaign was met with an angry response from Erdoğan's communications director, Fahrettin Altun, who tweeted on Aug. 2: “Turkey is strong.”

Altun claimed that the campaign had the intention of showing the Turkish state as “powerless" and was orchestrated from a "single center overseas." He shared his comments using the hashtag "StrongTürkiye" to counter the more popular one for help.