It’s taken a week, but the EU has finally condemned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s characterization of Zionism as racism, with the body’s special envoy Andreas Reinicke telling The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the comments were “not helpful and unacceptable.”

The EU has come under criticism both from Israeli officials and from various Jewish organizations for not joining the White House, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the foreign ministers of Canada, Germany and Austria in denouncing Erdogan’s comments.

Last week, at a UN framework for West-Islam Dialogue in Vienna, the Turkish leader said, “It is necessary that we must consider – just like Zionism, or anti-Semitism, or fascism – Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”

Reinicke’s comments came a day before President Shimon Peres – who began a week-long trip on Tuesday to Brussels, Paris and Strasbourg to strengthen Israel’s strategic ties with Europe – is scheduled to begin meeting with EU leaders. This issue is likely to come up in those meetings.

Among those Peres will meet are EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Council President Hermann Van Rompuy, and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Reinicke is the EU’s special representative to the Middle East peace process.

UN Watch, which drew attention to Erdogan’s words last week, called for Barroso, Van Rompuy and Schulz to condemn the Turkish leader’s comments.

In a related development, Israel’s envoy to Germany Yakov Hadas-Handelsman canceled his participation in an interfaith event in Berlin entitled “Muslims, Jews, Christians: Peace Is Possible,” because Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was participating.

“I had hoped to attend tomorrow’s meeting of the International Dialogue Institute (IDI) in parliament, particularly because dialogue is the constructive element for understanding,” the ambassador explained.

“Given the importance of this event, I expected that the Turkish prime minister would retract his recent horrible statements and lies about Zionism. Since that did not happen, I am forced to cancel my participation in the event,” he said. “Erdogan’s statements contradict the actual meaning of a dialogue.”

Last month, according to Turkish press reports, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu refused to shake hands with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Munich Security Conference.

According to Today’s Zaman, when Davutoglu snubbed Barak’s effort at a handshake, the defense minister said, “As the distance between the two sides of the table is wide, we could not reach each other’s hand.”

Davutoglu reportedly replied, “No, the problem is not the size of the table.

There will always be a distance between us unless you meet our demands” – a reference to Ankara’s demand for an Israeli apology over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.

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