Waiver of rescue workers: Turkey rejects Cyprus' help for the earthquake region, agrees, then rejects again - what's the point?

International aid began shortly after the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which has now killed more than 40,000 people.

Waiver of rescue workers: Turkey rejects Cyprus' help for the earthquake region, agrees, then rejects again - what's the point?

International aid began shortly after the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which has now killed more than 40,000 people. Numerous states sent rescue teams, planes with doctors, food and emergency shelter. Turkey gratefully accepted the offers. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently did not want to be helped by one country alone - Cyprus. At least that's what it seems when you look at the days of undignified bickering over an offer of help from Nicosia.

Immediately after the devastating tremors, Cyprus had declared its willingness to send a "light rescue team" to the hostile neighboring country. But Turkey gave up. "The offer was rejected because the needs, at least for the time being, require the immediate deployment of specialized heavy-duty rescue teams," said a statement from the Cyprus Foreign Ministry, which publicized Turkey's refusal. However, according to Panagiotis Liasidis, spokesman for the Cypriot civil defense force, the team is certified by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and can help.

A day later, Turkey rowed back and then accepted the offer of help from Cyprus. The EU civil protection department informed the island state of this, tweeted the spokesman for the Cypriot foreign ministry, Demetris Demetriou. The operation should take place under the auspices of the EU.

A day later, various media unanimously said that the Cypriot rescue team, consisting of 21 men, had ultimately not traveled to Turkey. Demetriou said that Turkey had communicated to the EU Civil Protection that the needs were at least currently covered. The State Department added on Twitter: "The offer still stands!"

In a radio broadcast, foreign ministry spokesman Demetriou said of the cancellation: "We don't know whether there were political reasons or whether the technical nature of the group did not meet the requirements." The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not want to comment on the situation when asked by the star.

The relationship between Ankara and Cyprus' capital Nicosia has been strained for decades. After the Greek coup, the Turkish military invaded Cyprus in 1974. A war followed with thousands of deaths and an occupation of the northern part by Turkish troops, which continues to this day. This means that Turks and Greek Cypriots share the island - with the separate capital, Nicosia. United Nations peacekeepers monitor the zone between the two territories. The Greek part of Cyprus is an independent state and has been a member of the EU since May 2004. The Turkish side with its government "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" is only recognized worldwide by Turkey. Ankara, in turn, does not recognize the international treaties of Cyprus. This repeatedly leads to tensions, especially over claims to sovereignty in the Mediterranean.

When the USA lifted the decades-long arms embargo against Cyprus in September, the Turkish side reacted with sharp criticism. The step could lead to an escalation in the region, it said. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also sharply condemned the decision. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that drones were stationed in northern Cyprus. And in January, media reported that Turkey was planning to base F-16 fighter jets in northern Cyprus. Thousands of Turkish soldiers are already stationed there anyway.

Presidential elections were held in Cyprus last Sunday. Former foreign minister and new president Nikos Christodoulidis announced that Cyprus's policy would "stay on the EU course". One of the most important items on his agenda is restarting negotiations with the North. Numerous mediations under the auspices of the UN to overcome the division have failed. The talks have been progressing without progress since 2017. While the UN is striving to form a federation of two politically equal states, Ankara is insisting on a two-state solution.

Sending Cypriot rescue workers to the Turkish disaster area some 300 kilometers away would have been the first time since 1974 that Turkey had allowed Greek Cypriot officials to be involved on its territory. It would have been a symbol of an improvement in relations and a new start - similar to what had happened before with Greece and also Armenia. You can read more about the current situation between Turkey and Greece here.

The government in Cyprus also had this in mind. The Greek Cypriots' sympathy for the victims of the quake is unbroken. This was particularly evident in the death of 49 people from the Turkish part of Cyprus. Among them were 24 students who were staying at a hotel in the city of Adiyaman when the quake devastated the city. The Cypriot Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter: "All Cypriots mourn the tragic loss of many Turkish Cypriots in the deadly earthquake. We offer our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and pray for a speedy recovery of those injured. Cyprus stands by our compatriots ." As a sign of mourning, the House of Representatives flags flew at half-staff on Wednesday.

Even after Turkey's refusal, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry still wanted to help. A meeting was scheduled with the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Health, the Red Cross and the Pan-Cypriot Volunteer Coordination Council. Possibilities "to support those affected in Turkey and Syria should be discussed". Humanitarian aid is currently being collected in Cyprus, which is being accepted at various locations in the country.

Sources: Euronews, Kathimerini, Frankfurter Rundschau, Antenna, APE-MPE, Sigmalive, Cyprus Times, with dpa material