Greek Cyprus brings deadly wildfire under control
NICOSIA – Agence France-PresseGreek Cyprus finally brought a massive wildfire under control on June 23, after a five-day battle that saw two firefighters killed and five foreign governments send aircraft to help, a minister has said.
Hundreds of firefighters remained on standby to put out any rekindled flames, Greek Cypriot Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis told reporters.
Firefighting aircraft deployed by Britain, France, Greece and Italy were also staying on the island as a precaution, Kouyialis said.
Six planes provided by Israel returned home.
Turkey and Greek Cyprus had in theory agreed to have the former send firefighting aircrafts to the latter but that was never realized as a disagreement emerged over where the planes would land on the island.
“[Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa] Akıncı had discussions with Greek Cypriot leader [Nicos] Anastasiades again and again. We [Turkey] wanted to send a plane and helicopter. The Greek [Cypriot] side is trying to take advantage of such a delicate issue and against such a humane approach; it is trying to get Turkish planes and helicopters to land on the Greek side. This is not something we would accept. We need not make politics out of such a humanitarian issue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in response to questions at a joint press conference following a meeting with his visiting Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu, on June 22.
“We, with a humane approach, conveyed our offer of aid after having seen that the fire on the Greek side could not be contained,” he said.
Akıncı released a statement on June 22 saying Turkish Cyprus had also offered to send vehicles to combat the fires, but “observed with sadness” that the issues of where the Turkish aircrafts would land and where they would pull water from were not handled within a framework of geographical closeness and effectiveness but in a political framework.
He added these issues meant nothing amid such a big disaster.
“Our guide cannot be the established patterns of politics and diplomacy in such cases. The guide can only be wisdom and human values,” Akıncı said.
The blaze destroyed at least 15 square kilometers of orchards and forest in the Solea valley in the northern foothills of the Troodos Mountains.
Meanwhile, Akıncı and Anastasiades met at the U.N. Goodwill Offices in Nicosia on June 23 as part of the peace talks relaunched last year in order to find a peaceful solution to the 42-year-old conflict on the island.