Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey is “powerful enough to help both Soma and Somalia,” responding to criticism that his government failed to provide timely help to the mine disaster-struck western Turkish town of Soma, despite promoting its assistance to Africa as a great success.
“Some told us to leave Somalia and look at Soma. We instantly went to Soma and tended to its wounds, and we are still doing so,” Erdoğan said, calling for donations for victims only through Turkey’s disaster response agency, AFAD, rather than through independent associations.
“We are living with an indescribable pain as a nation. Let God not let any country experience such a pain,” he added.
Erdoğan was speaking at an event on Ankara’s foreign aid programs, held on May 19 by the Turkish International Development Agency (TİKA). He particularly mentioned Turkish projects ongoing in Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Mongolia and Ethiopia, among others.
“We have extended our hands to Soma with God’s mercy and we are powerful enough to reach out to Somalia,” the prime minister said.
Erdoğan also sent solidarity messages to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbia, which have both been hit by catastrophic floods. He also expressed the Turkish state’s messages of solidarity over a dam accident in Georgia and a plane crash in Laos.
Slip of the tongue
He also responded to allegations that the government has close ties to the owner of the Soma mine, saying he saw Alp Gürkan for the first time during his visit to the site after the accident on May 14. “They said this boss was from the AKP [Justice and Development Party]. I saw him for the first time there. I hadn’t met him once until that day. These calumniators think they can gain something from such slanders,” Erdoğan said.
In an apparent slip of the tongue during the speech, the prime minister also mentioned the number of the death toll incorrectly, saying “371 people had died” before immediately correcting himself. Some are still questioning the official death toll, announced as 301, claiming that there are more workers in the mine who unaccounted for.
Erdoğan’s eventful trip to Soma raised eyebrows and increased criticism of the government for not handling the mine disaster adequately.