Israel can take solace that it is not the only country in the world from which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking an apology: On Wednesday he demanded one from Armenia as well.
The Turkish news website Today’s Zaman, reporting on Erdogan’s current trip to Azerbaijan, quoted him as saying that Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan should apologize for calling on Armenian school children to occupy eastern Turkey.
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Sarksyan, asked by a student if Armenia would get back its “western territories” along with Mount Ararat – an area of great historical significance to Armenians – that’s now in Turkey, replied that “it depends on you and your generation. I believe my generation has fulfilled the task in front of us; when it was necessary in the beginning of the ’90s to defend part of our fatherland – Karabakh – from the enemy, we did it. I am not telling this to embarrass anyone. My point is that each generation has its responsibilities and they have to be carried out with honor.”
The statement infuriated Turkey. According to Today’s Zaman, Erdogan said Sarksyan’s behavior was a provocation and an attempt to fill youth with hatred, which he said would lead Armenia’s youth into “darkness.”
“There cannot be such diplomacy. Sarksyan has made a very serious mistake.... He must apologize,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
Erdogan’s demand for an Armenian apology comes just a few days after he threatened Israel with a “Plan B” – a further downgrading of ties – if it did not apologize for last year’s Mavi Marmara incident.
“What we see here is a pattern developing,” one Israeli diplomatic source said of Erdogan’s most recent demand for an apology. “Who is going to ask Erdogan to apologize for Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus?”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s senior forum of eight ministers – a body known as the octet – met on Wednesday, but, according to government officials, did not deal with the Mavi Marmara issue because Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon was not present.
Ya’alon, who in recent weeks has led the Israeli team negotiating with the Turks over putting an end to the flotilla incident and re-establish normal ties, has come out strongly against an apology to Ankara.
In addition to an apology, Erdogan is also demanding that Israel pay compensation to the families of the nine Mavi Marmara
passengers killed while trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza, and to lift the blockade itself.
While there is objection inside the octet to a blanket apology, there is
believed to be a willingness to issue a partial apology for
“operational failures” that led to the loss of lives, but not the type
of apology that could be interpreted as taking responsibility for the
The release of the UN Palmer Commission report on the incident, which
was to have been on Wednesday, has been postponed until August 20 to
give the sides more time to come up with an acceptable formula.