Gul, Barak trade snubs in Vienna

Turkish president and Defense Minister Barak dance around each other at the World Policy Conference in Vienna.

By
December 10, 2011 21:38
2 minute read.
Ehud Barak at World Policy Conference dinner

Ehud Barak at World Policy Conference dinner 311. (photo credit: Courtesy of World Policy Conference)

 
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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.

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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.

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