Turkish citizens are confused as to whether the country has enough firefighting planes or not in the face of Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli's puzzling remarks from three separate dates.
Pakdemirli initially said on July 30 that his ministry does not own any firefighting aircraft and instead rents them. "In our inventory, we do not have any firefighting plane or helicopter. This has always been the case. We have launched works for the purchase of planes to our inventory with the instruction of our President,” he told reporters.
The absence of a functioning national fleet of firefighting aircraft forced Turkey to wait for specialized planes to arrive from other countries, including Spain, Ukraine and Russia.
Many citizens have pointed out that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not refrain from undertaking extravagant spending, whereas it has not managed to buy a single firefighting aircraft all these years to put under the state inventory.
In the face of criticism, Pakdemirli said this time on Aug. 1 that the General Directorate of Forestry's aerial fleet is among the “strongest fleets” of the world.
“We have an aerial fleet that is very rare in the world. We have the strongest aerial fleet of the Turkish Republic. The aerial fleet of the General Directorate of Forestry, along with the ground forces, is one of the most important establishments in the world. It is one of the strongest fleets of the Mediterranean geography,” he said.
On Aug. 10, another puzzling statement came from Pakdemirli as he confirmed plans to dispatch two 40-ton firefighting planes to Greece.
Pakdemirli said that Turkey has a “surplus capacity” in the number of firefighting aircraft, which is why it should not “avoid sending them to our neighbors.” “We also need to help our neighbor. The forests are not only our own but belong to the entire world,” he said.
With no aircraft of its own, the Turkish government's pledge created confusion, with Turks wondering whose planes will be sent to Greece.
In the last two weeks, the fires have wrought damage on tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean provinces, killed eight people and forced thousands of people including tourists to flee.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government is facing increased criticism over its apparent poor response and inadequate preparedness in the face of large-scale wildfires.