In what a Turkish web site dubbed "A Mavi Marmara waltz in Vienna," Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Turkish President Abdullah Gul danced around each other at a conference in the Austrian capital on Friday, a sign that while Turkish anti-Israel rhetoric has subsided, the diplomatic crisis still exists.
According to Turkish media reports, Gul – who along with Barak was among those attending the fourth annual World Policy Conference – made sure that he did not enter Vienna's Hofburg Palace where the conference was taking place at the same time as Barak. Likewise, he did not attend a luncheon hosted by Austrian President Heinz Fisher, or take part in a group picture of leaders at the conference, because of Barak's participation.
Turkey's Gul says change is inevitable in Syria
While the lunch took place, Gul visited a local neighborhood with a large Turkish population.
Barak, however, did not stay indifferent to the snub, and – according to the reports -- left the conference hall after Fisher gave the opening address to the group, and before Gul spoke. No statement was forthcoming Saturday night from Barak's office.
Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed a tirade
of anti-Israel rhetoric in late August after Israel formally refused
Turkish demands to lift the Gaza naval blockade and apologize for the
2010 Mavi Marmara incident
during which nine Turks were killed trying to break the blockade.
Erdogan's overheated anti-Israel rhetoric in early September during a
trip to Egypt, and his speech later that month at the UN General
Assembly -- along with threats to send gunships to escort the next
flotilla trying to break the blockade -- has subsided in recent weeks as
Turkey became preoccupied with the ongoing crisis in Syria and with the
major earthquake that hit eastern Turkey in October.
Friday's incident in Austria, however, shows that the crisis has not dissipated, just been overtaken by other events.
One government official said Israel still hoped it was possible to "stem
the deterioration in the relationship and even turn the situation
around." The official said Israel had "no interest in a bad
relationship with Turkey," and added that ongoing contacts continue at
different levels in an effort to defuse the crisis.