Turkey pulls out of Munich defense conference because of Israel

The Munich Security Conference is an annual event that brings together some of the world's top policy makers in foreign and defense policy.

February 6, 2015 15:36
3 minute read.

Munich Security Conference

Munich Security Conference

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu pulled out of a security conference in Munich at the last minute on Friday, rather than attend a joint session with an Israeli delegation.

“I was going to attend the conference, but we decided not to after they added Israeli officials to the Middle East session at the last minute,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Berlin, where he has been meeting with Turkish ambassadors based in Europe.

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Withdrawing from the meeting had nothing to do with Turkey’s relationship with Germany, he said in the remarks broadcast by Turkish state television, TRT.

The Anadolu news agency on Friday reported that Turkey would instead send a low-level representative to the conference, which wraps up on Sunday night.

Israel’s official envoy to the conference, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, said, “Israel is astonished by the Turkish decision.”

Steinitz is scheduled to address the conference on Sunday on the danger of a nuclear Iran and the terrorism of radicalized Islam.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union list, spoke to the conference on Saturday night.

Steinitz said on Friday that Israel plans to participate in all important international conferences in spite of the Turkish boycott.

“Turkey’s boycott is essentially Ankara’s expression of sympathy for radical Islam and terrorist organizations like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Steinitz said. “This decision casts a heavy pall over Turkey’s future and its character more than it injures Israel.”

Israel and Turkey, which had formerly been allies, soured during Operation Cast lead in 2008 when Recep Tayyip Erdogan was prime minister. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 2010, when Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who attacked them aboard the ship Mavi Marmara, which was intercepted while attempting to break Israel’s arms blockade on the Gaza Strip. A 10th Turk later died of wounds from the incident.

The US attempted to restore relations between the two countries in 2013. Under pressure from the US, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for the death of its citizens. However, pledges by both countries to normalize ties never materialized.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Friday condemned Cavusoglu’s decision to boycott the conference and attacked Netanyahu for his 2013 apology.

“The Turkish foreign minister’s decision to skip the Munich Security Conference because of the Israeli presence there proves once again just how big the mistake was to apologize to Turkey,” he said.

“As long as Turkey is being ruled by the current regime [of Erdogan, who is now president], there’s no chance of rehabilitating ties between our two countries, since Erdogan’s Turkey is a country that is only interested in attacking Israel,” the foreign minister said. “Israel must conduct its affairs visà- vis Turkey accordingly and stand up for its interests.”

In the last few years Israel and Turkey have frequently engaged in bitter verbal exchanges.

Erdogan, whose ruling party has Islamic roots and who is an outspoken advocate of the Palestinian cause, said Israel’s war in Hamas-controlled Gaza last year “surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

Netanyahu responded by accusing him of anti-Semitism.

Last month Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu likened Netanyahu to the Islamist terrorists who killed 17 people in Paris – among them four Jews at a kosher supermarket – saying he had also committed crimes against humanity.

The Munich Security Conference is an annual event that brings together some of the world’s top policy makers in foreign and defense policy, including US Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Volker Beck, a leading Green Party MP who chairs the Germany-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, sharply criticized the Turkish decision to boycott the Munich conference: “That is an outrageous act.

It is an affront against Israel and an affront against Germany!” He added, “The federal government must condemn the Turkish government. The anti-Israel course of the Turkish government is cause for concern. The cancellation of Turkey’s Foreign Ministry is not an isolated act, rather part of a set of actions. In December, the Turkish prime minister welcomed and celebrated a Hamas leader at the [Turkey’s ruling] AKP party conference,” said Beck.

Germany, the United States and the European1 Union classify the Palestinian group Hamas as a terrorist entity.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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