Ankara, plane with aid for Spain against coronavirus

Government of Spain rectifies and denies Turkey requisition of ventilators

The ventilators, which had been purchased not from China but from a Turkish company even knowing that their export was already prohibited in Turkey, are already on their way to Spain.

Turkey has not confiscated or appropriated any medical material destined for Spain: this has been assured by the Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who did not want to enter into controversy over the accusations launched against Ankara after the Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya suggested on Friday that the Turkish authorities were holding a shipment of ventilators bound for Spain and that Spain considered them as “lost.”

The controversy sprang up on Friday night in the Spanish media and social media, after all newspapers echoed an information published by the newspaper El Mundo stating that Turkey had confiscated a plane from China and bound for Spain, which was carrying around 150 ventilators bought by Navarra and Castilla-La Mancha, vital to care for COVID-19 patients in ICUs.

The minister herself appeared at a press conference and confirmed that the Spanish government had been taking steps for weeks to obtain the delivery of these ventilators, but added that for now the Turkish authorities were not delivering them because “the Turkish government understands that they are a priority for the treatment of their patients“, and that therefore these ventilators were considered lost.

“We have been able to get this far,” Laya concluded, assuring that she and the Minister of Health had held several conversations with the Turkish government, and implying that as a result of the same -according to the version of the Spanish minister- they had achieved the sending by Turkey of another shipment of PPE consisting of 25 tons of masks, gowns, disinfecting gel and other medical equipment. Several Spanish media even claimed that this shipment of medical material against the coronavirus would have been a kind of “exchange” for ventilators.

Ventilators not bought from China … but from Turkey

However, the Spanish government itself had officially recognised days before that this shipment of medical aid for Spain against coronavirus corresponded to a unilateral decision by the Turkish government to send aid to Spain against COVID-19 at suggestion of NATO general secretariat – a request to which only Turkey responded, in addition to the Czech Republic (which has very few infections) – and not as a result of negotiations by the Spanish government or a theoretical exchange.

In fact, Turkey also sent this same week two other similar shipments to Italy, and previously it had already sent it to other countries such as Iran or Bulgaria. Later it was learned that the alleged plane from China was not transporting ventilators, but was only going to transport them, and that these ventilators had not been purchased in the Asian country but from a Turkish company, apparently through a Spanish supplier that -for lower costs – had its production located in Turkey.

That is to say, the ventilators were neither Chinese, nor Spanish, as it was stated in various media. In addition, the government of Castilla-La Mancha had made this purchase when a regulation – similar to that which exists in Spain and other countries – had already entered into force in Turkey, prohibiting the export of medical equipment necessary to fight the virus, including ventilators, as Moncloa herself recognised yesterday in an official statement.

In this way, Pedro Sánchez’s government corrected on Saturday the statements made on Friday by the foreign minister. Sources at the Spanish embassy in Ankara also confirmed on Saturday that the purchase was made while Turkey’s prohibition on exports of medical equipment and supplies was in force, and that despite this the Spanish government tried to get the ventilators to leave for Spain.

González Laya rectifies and thanks Turkey

Finally the Turkish authorities, ignoring the controversy, announced on Saturday that they have approved the export of ventilators manufactured in Turkey to Spain, something that Laya herself thanked in a message in English on Twitter: “Thank you # Turkey @MevlutCavusoglu 4 authorising the export of Turkish respirators bought by two of our Autonomous Communities Navarra and CastillaLaMancha in view of the urgency in Spain, we appreciate the gesture of a friend & ally,”, she wrote.

The minister also appeared to correct her initial version on Saturday, and in statements to television she denied the statements published in the Spanish press that Ankara had confiscated the ventilators, adding that unfair and unfounded accusations had been made from the opposition parties against Turkey that only serve to damage bilateral relations.

For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu wrote a message on Twitter in Turkish, English and Spanish on Saturday, saying: “We will always be with our friend Spain. We will overcome these difficult times together.” In statements to Turkish media, Çavuşoğlu categorically denied the version that Turkey had seized ventilators destined for Spain: “The confiscation of (medical) material is a terrible accusation,” the minister insisted.