The Turkish government has declined an offer of help from Israel following the devastating earthquake in the east of the country. Israel made its offer of help on Sunday after more than 200 people were known to have been killed by the quake and hundreds more were injured. The government in Ankara has said that it will accept aid from neighbouring Iran and Azerbaijan.
Israel's offer was announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said, "I have instructed all branches of the Israeli government to offer whatever help it can to the people of Turkey." He mentioned that Israel had helped Turkey in the past; a reference to a similar earthquake several years ago. He also pointed out that Turkey had given assistance to Israel during the Carmel Forest fire last winter. "It is what neighbours should be doing for one another," he added.
Shimon Peres called his Turkish counterpart, President Abdullah Gul to express condolences. "At this difficult time," said the Israeli president, "Israel is willing to provide any aid required anywhere in Turkey, and at any time."
Israeli officials rejected Turkey's "diplomatic" rebuff. It is important to separate humanitarian and political issues, they said, especially in light of Israel's expertise in dealing with natural crises. They added that Turkey's rejection of Israeli aid was a "temporary" situation until Ankara can judge the damage and assess its needs accordingly. They believe that if Turkey finds itself in need of assistance, it will ask Israel and other countries for such help. Netanyahu's government is looking at the earthquake as an opportunity to improve Turkish-Israeli relations and overcome the ongoing diplomatic rift between the two countries.