A Turkish military aircraft carrying medical aid departed from the capital Ankara Wednesday for Italy and Spain, the countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus in Europe as reported by Daily Sabah.
The A400M military cargo plane took off from Etimesgut military airport in the capital Ankara carrying crates full of masks, hazmat suits, goggles and disinfectants.
All equipment on board has been produced at military-owned factories and at sewing workshops that produce military uniforms and other clothing for the army.
The crates containing the supplies carry messages reading: “With love to the people of Spain and Italy, from Turkey” and the words of the 13th-century Muslim poet Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi: “There is hope after despair and many suns after darkness.”
The plane, which delivered the aid first to Spain, stopped in Italy to provide assistance on its return. Turkey also sent essential supply to Kosovo, Serbia and Bosina too.
Masks, overalls and test kits prepared by @saglikbakanligi will be delivered to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo by the instructions of our President Mr. Erdogan. pic.twitter.com/x3pVMsn12S
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) April 8, 2020
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised Turkey’s efforts, tweeting that it was “NATO solidarity in action.” “Proud to see NATO allies supporting each other through our disaster relief center,” Stoltenberg tweeted with the hashtag #StrongerTogether.
“Turkey stands together with its allies in times of crisis and hardship. We hope our allies do the same,” Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın tweeted in response to Stoltenberg.
“We are in the middle of a turning point in history, living through a paradigm shift moment. This ordeal will either bring us closer to one another or turn us into further strangers in an increasingly uncertain and fragile world. The choice is ours,” Kalın also tweeted.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio thanked Turkey for helping his country’s combat against the novel coronavirus. The minister, Italian Chief of General Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli and Turkey’s Ambassador to Rome Murat Salim Esenli greeted the cargo aircraft that landed in Practica di Mare Airbase near Rome.
Upon the instructions of President, health supplies consisting of masks, overalls and anti-bacterial fluids, produced domestically in the Defence Ministry’s factories and sewing facilities with local resources, will be sent by TAF aircraft to Italy and Spain to combat COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/oYJQYhuWAd
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) April 1, 2020
“Today’s help is very important to us. We thank President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, Foreign Minister [Mevlüt] Çavuşoğlu and all Turkish people for their solidarity,” Di Maio said, noting that the country needs 100 million masks a month.
In response to Di Maio’s message thanking Turkish aid from Twitter, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu responded: “Hard times reveal true friends.” The two ministers also spoke on the phone, according to diplomatic sources.
The Italian delegation in NATO also took to Twitter to thank Turkey. “Following Italy’s activation of NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center, today, our ally Turkey is set to deliver critical medical equipment to Italy. Deeply grateful to our Turkish friends for their solidarity!” said the delegation.
The Spanish delegation to NATO also expressed gratefulness to Turkey via their official Twitter account. “After Spain’s request to NATO’s EADRCC, a new supply to fight COVID-19 arrives from our ally Turkey,” it said, referring to the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC).
Erdoğan announced the aid Monday and said the country had already sent a shipload of medical supplies via the Turkish Red Crescent to Italy. “The stronger Turkey gets, the longer it can extend its helping hand to its allies,” he said.
Turkey first sent medical equipment to China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, in February, when it sent a military cargo plane to evacuate its citizens in China’s Wuhan.
When Turkey’s eastern neighbour Iran started reporting a barrage of coronavirus cases, the country donated 1,000 test kits.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, has spread to at least 180 countries and regions, according to U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Its data shows the number of confirmed cases worldwide has surpassed 860,100, with the death toll over 42,300 and more than 178,300 recoveries.
With a global death toll of more than 44,200, COVID-19 has sounded global alarm and stressed resources of countries. Italy, Spain, Iran, China and the U.S. are some of the countries worst-hit by the novel virus. Italy’s death toll reached 12,428 on Tuesday, the highest globally. Spain’s reported death toll is 8,189.