Ashkenazi apologizes to Turkish counterpart after Mizrachi says Erdogan should "look in the mirror."
By YAAKOV KATZ
In an effort to prevent a deterioration in military relations with Turkey, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spoke this week with his Turkish counterpart to apologize for critical remarks made last week by OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday.
Last week, in a lecture at the National Defense College in Glilot, Mizrahi said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been severely critical of Israel since Operation Cast Lead, should first look in the mirror. Mizrahi mentioned the massacre of the Armenians, the suppression of the Kurds, and the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, Haaretz reported.
In response, Ankara summoned Ambassador to Turkey Gabi Levy for clarifications. Ashkenazi summoned Mizrahi this week and reprimanded him for the comments he made during his lecture.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, Mizrahi was asked about the incident and said it was behind him.
Officials said that Ashkenazi spoke at length with Gen. Ilker Basbug and assured him that Mizrahi's remarks did not reflect the IDF's official position, and that Israel highly valued the strategic relationship it had forged over the years with the Turkish military.
Despite Erdogan's harsh comments during the recent Gaza offensive - among them that Israel should be barred from the UN and that Israel was perpetrating inhumane actions that would lead to its destruction - as well as his upbraiding of President Shimon Peres at the Davos summit last month, Israel has never called in the Turkish ambassador to register a protest.
While Erdogan's criticism has strained diplomatic ties, both countries' militaries have tried to stay out of the fray.
Israel and Turkey collaborate on a wide range of military issues and the IAF, for example, frequently trains in Turkish airspace. Turkey is also a major client of Israeli defense industries.
The two countries also hold annual joint naval exercises and share intelligence.
Ashkenazi would likely send an official letter to the Turkish military regarding the issue and the IDF did not expect the incident to impair relations, Military sources said.
The Turks were said to be deeply insulted by Mizrahi's comments due to the long-standing strategic and close relationship between Israel and Turkey.
The IDF Spokesman's Office released the following statement: "IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with his Turkish counterpart this week and said that the remarks attributed to Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi were not the official IDF position and that IDF generals and commanders were permitted to only express opinions on military and security issues."
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