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‘Turkish nation has never refused a helping hand extended to them’

Explaining that the two biggest earthquakes in Türkiye since 1939 struck approximately nine hours apart, Türkiye’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said, “both of these earthquakes were bigger than the earthquake we experienced in the Marmara region in 1999. 

“Moreover, eleven provinces were affected by this situation. Our nation calls these earthquakes the ‘disaster of the century’,” Altun said in an interview to Kathimerini, one of the leading newspapers in Greece, on Saturday.

Emphasising that everyone from the search and rescue personnel to the security forces and paramedics made a superhuman effort in this process, he said. 

“However, there are those [naysayers] who wish to ignore both the size of the disaster and the effort and sacrifice of those who save lives on the field from the first moment,” he added.

“Our state is covering the wounds of earthquake victims with all its might. Our citizens do not spare their financial and in-kind support to institutions that carry out aid activities, especially AFAD. Indeed, we have clearly demonstrated the unity and integrity of Türkiye with its state and nation during this difficult period.”

“Currently, our government has no priority other than meeting the needs of our citizens and resurrecting our cities affected by the earthquake.”

First priority is to heal citizens’ wounds

Asked whether Turkish elections, currently scheduled for May 14, would be postponed, Altun said, “we do not have such an agenda. Our number one priority right now is to heal the wounds as soon as possible. We have people killed and injured in the earthquake.”

“Of course, we are in great pain. But we will overcome these difficult days with the unity of the state and nation.”

‘Safe and quality accommodation’

Asked whether reconstruction efforts starting so soon after the catastrophe is realistic, Altun said it certainly was, “because the Republic of Türkiye is a strong state. It has serious capacity. We are talking about a country that builds safe buildings all over the world and puts its signature under giant projects. Most importantly, Türkiye has a strong leader like our President (Recep Tayyip Erdogan).” 

“Just as we did not allow victimisation of our citizens in previous disasters, we will heal the wounds without delay now. We will provide our citizens with safe and quality accommodation.”

‘Turkish nation has never refused a friendly hand’

Altun was asked whether Greece broadcasting a support message and sending a search and rescue team right away would open “a new page” in Türkiye-Greece relations. He said Türkiye had immediately called for international assistance after the first earthquake and said that dozens of search and rescue teams flocked to the country.

Pointing out that Greece was among them, Altun said: “Of course, we are grateful to Greece and all the countries that supported us. Regarding our relations with Greece, I can say this: We always want to have good relations with all our neighbours.”

“It is natural to have disagreements between states from time to time. We must resolve these disputes on the basis of meaningful and sincere dialogue and fairness, in accordance with international law. The Turkish nation has never refused a friendly hand extended to them,” he concluded.

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