'Israel could lose Turkey's friendship'

Erdogan slams Netanyahu for “climate of mistrust” that is undermining ties.

February 1, 2010 03:54
3 minute read.
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey PM Erdogan 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally struck out against Israel again on Saturday, saying in an interview with Euronews TV that Israel “ruthlessly killed” innocent civilians in Gaza and was forcing the population there to live “in an open-air prison.”

Asked about a recent report put out by the Foreign Ministry’s in-house intelligence division, the Center for Policy Research, claiming that Erdogan was indirectly stoking anti-Semitic flames in his country, the Turkish leader responded, “I am telling the truth.”

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“Turkey has an age-old history as a state,” Erdogan said. “When you talk to such a state you must be careful. When innocent civilians are ruthlessly killed, struck by phosphorus bombs, infrastructure is demolished in bombing and people are forced to live in an open-air prison... we cannot see this as compatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, simple human rights, and we cannot close our eyes to all this happening.”

Less than two weeks after the Foreign Ministry report was penned – saying that while the Turks were badly insulted by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s public dressing down of the Turkish ambassador last month, Ankara realized Israel had red lines and Turkey could risk losing it as an ally – Erdogan turned the tables and said Israel should consider the consequences of losing Turkey.

“Israel should give some thought to what it would be like to lose a friend like Turkey in the future,” he said. “The way they recently treated our ambassador has no place in international politics.”

“We have done our best for Israel-Syria relations. But now we see Binyamin Netanyahu saying ‘I do not trust Erdogan, but I trust [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy.’ Do you have to give a name? This is diplomatic inexperience, too. Because when you say this... How can I trust you if you say you don’t trust me? We have important ongoing agreements between us. How can these agreements be kept going in this climate of mistrust? I think Israel had better take another look at its relations with its neighbors if it believes it is a world power.”

Israeli government sources said Erdogan’s description was not a precise record of Netanyahu’s comments. Netanyahu, speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in December, said that he was asked about negotiations with Syria when he was in France earlier in the year.

Netanyahu, the sources said, told the Knesset committee that he told Sarkozy at the time that Israel preferred direct negotiations with Damascus, but baring that would not say no to a mediator, although it had to be a mediator who had the confidence of both sides. “Why don’t you do it?” Netanyahu said he asked Sarkozy.

According to the sources, Netanyahu never said he trusted Sarkozy and not Erdogan, but rather that any mediator would need the confidence of both sides.

Regarding Erdogan’s overall comments, one government source responded, “From Israel’s standpoint we want to see a good relationship with Turkey, and not the sort of problems we have seen recently. We hope the Turkish government shares this goal.”

A Foreign Ministry official added, “We don’t believe that engaging in public polemics will benefit the good relations of the two countries.”

During the Gaza War last winter, Erdogan referred to Israeli actions as a “crime against humanity.” On January 17, 2009, he called for Israel to be suspended from the UN as long as it defied the organization’s calls for a cease-fire.

Euronews is a multilingual, pan-European TV station that interviewed Erdogan on the eve of its launch of broadcasts in Turkish.

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