Israel Offers to Help Turkey With Coal Mine Disaster

With efforts underway to improve bilateral ties, Israeli Embassy calls off belated Independence Day celebration in Ankara.


Israel offered Wednesday to help Turkey with anything it needs to cope with the coal mine disaster that left 245 miners dead and hundreds more trapped inside the mine in western Turkey.

"At times of tragedy we must all do what we can to help one another and we have offered Turkey whatever assistance you require at this time," President Shimon Peres said in a letter to Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

"We are all shocked at the loss of life of innocent people at work and our thoughts are with the people of Turkey," wrote Peres, expressing condolences for the mine disaster and adding: "We pray for the victims, their families, for the rescue of those still trapped and the full recovery of the injured."

The Israeli Embassy in Ankara has canceled its belated Israel Independence Day ceremony to show solidarity with Turkey, the embassy announced Wednesday.

"The State and people of Israel share the grief of the Turkish people, pay condolences to the families of the deceased, wish speedy recovery for the wounded and hope for positive news from the ones still in the mine," the embassy said in a statement.

Independence Day took place May 6, but festivities were scheduled for Wednesday.

Close to 3 P.M. Israel time, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan announced that the number of deaths had reached 238 and that about 120 miners were still missing. Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said 787 people were inside the coal mine in Soma at the time of the accident and more than 450 have been rescued.

There have been only two diplomats, neither of them high-ranking, staffing the Israeli Embassy in Ankara since Turkey downgraded its ties with Israel in September 2011. At that time, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv after a UN report found that Israel's deadly raid of the Gaza-bound flotilla led by the Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara was "excessive and unreasonable."

Israel and Turkey have since been trying to patch up their relationship. In March 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish people for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals during the May 2010 raid and in February of this year, Israel offered Turkey $20 million in compensation for the families of the Turkish casualties of the naval takeover. Netanyahu has yet to give his final approval, however, and the payout has yet to be made.