President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has argued that firefighting efforts to extinguish forest fires raging through Turkey fall under the responsibility of metropolitan municipalities in residential areas.
“Who has the responsibility with regards to the fires, etc. in the residential areas? That is under the responsibility of the metropolitan municipalities there,” Erdoğan said on Aug. 4, during a joint interview to pro-government TV channels A Haber and ATV.
Erdoğan's comments were reminiscent of previous remarks made by Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli, who had blamed oppositional municipalities over inadequate response to the ongoing wildfires.
The minister had said on Aug. 1 that because municipalities do not adequately undertake their duties, his ministry's personnel have to both evacuate people in residential areas and respond to the fires.
Pakdemirli's statements had drawn severe criticism from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which asked for his resignation.
Erdoğan refers to wildfires as 'threat of terror'
Erdoğan also referred to the current wildfires as a “threat of terror,” saying: “Forest fires are an international threat like the COVID-19 which the whole world is currently fighting against; they are even a threat of terror.”
Erdoğan accused the opposition of conducting “an operation of perception,” which he renamed as “terror of lie.”
“Is there a 'terror of lie' in Turkey? Yes there is. Who is doing it? The opposition. Some people call it 'operation of perception,' but the name of this is in fact 'terror of lie,'” Erdoğan said.
He said that the number of firefighting planes battling the fires in Turkey has increased from 16 to 20, as four more planes have been dispatched from abroad.
“Apart from them, there are also 51 helicopters. These are always working. A 'terror of lie' is being spread in the discourse of 'Why are there no planes? Why are there no helicopters?'” Erdoğan said.
Local officials, many of them from the CHP, have been pointing out that that the government response to the wildfires has been slow or inadequate.
Firefighting planes from Spain and Croatia joined teams from Russia, Iran, Ukraine and Azerbaijan this week to battle blazes, after Turkey requested European support.
Opposition parties criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government for depleting firefighting resources over the years. Thousands also took to social media calling for Erdogan to step down, while others criticized the lack of resources and what they called inadequate preparations.
The government has defended its response to the wildfires, saying its efforts have been planned and coordinated.