Turkish PM urges Israeli apology during Lebanon trip
BEIRUT - Hürriyet Daily News | 11/24/2010 12:00:00 AM | PATRICK GALEY
Turkey's prime minister called on Israel to apologize for its mistakes in the region in a speech he gave in Lebanon on Wednesday, adding Turkey would do its best to avert a fresh armed flare-up in Lebanon.
“We will go on to raise our voice against those massacring innocent people and children. We will call a killer a killer when needed,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the Lebanese Turkmen village Kouachra, near the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
Erdoğan’s remarks came at the beginning of a two-day official visit to Beirut on Wednesday.
“The people of Israel should see this now. If peace comes to that region, Israel would win as the region wins. If there is war in this region, Israel’s people will be harmed as people of the region will be harmed. That is why we call on Israel to turn back from its mistakes, apologize and accept peace,” he said.
Following the speech, Erdoğan told Lebanese daily as-Safir that he promised to use Turkey’s regional clout to maintain stability in the tiny Mediterranean nation. “Should any signs of war surface in Lebanon, God forbid, Turkey and other countries in the region will do everything they can to prevent that war,” he said.
The prime minister’s two-day visit will focus on strengthening ties between Beirut and Ankara and is set to include meetings with senior Lebanese officials. A source close to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review that Wednesday evening’s bilateral meeting would see the two leaders “sign an association agreement and build high-level strategic partnerships.”
Erdoğan’s visit comes at a crucial time, with Lebanon on the verge of political breakdown due to disagreement over a United Nations-backed investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Speculation has soared that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, or STL, is ready to issue indictments against Hezbollah members, following a spate of media reports linking the party to al-Hariri’s murder. Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has warned of the consequences should arrest warrants against party members materialize, while the cabinet remains divided over issues such as STL funding and the possibility any investigation may be misdirected because of “false witnesses.”
“As a leader who loves Lebanon and the Lebanese, I don’t want Lebanon to go through such a thing,” Erdoğan told as-Safir. “In the event it does happen, all religions, races and sects will destroy Lebanon and those paving the way for such strife will not be able to get rid of their historic accountability.”
[HH] Armenians stage protest
Giant billboards with Erdoğan’s face and a greeting in Turkish adorned Beirut’s city center and southern suburbs, echoing the tone of banners welcoming Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad who undertook a historic visit to Lebanon last month.
Lebanon is home to more than 140,000 Armenians and several demonstrations were organized by Lebanese-Armenian religious and political figures to protest Erdoğan’s visit.
Demonstrators chanted slogans such as "the Lebanese have not forgotten Turkey's bloody history in the region," and, "Erdoğan should bow before our martyrs," although the protests were peaceful amid heavy security.
Lebanese Dashnaktsutyun Party leader Hagop Pakradounian said Lebanese officials were giving Erdoğan “more importance than his real role and forgetting that he is the heir of the Ottoman Empire.”
Erdoğan later met with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman at the latter’s residence “with talks touching on bilateral relations and the general situation in the region,” a presidential statement said. He also met Parliament Speaker Nabih al-Berri.
There are hopes Erdoğan may harness Turkey’s relationship with Iran and Syria to pressure Hezbollah into submission over the STL.
“Everyone is trying to prevent disturbances in Lebanon and Turkey can pressure Syria and Iran in order to tone down the Hezbollah rhetoric,” Simon Haddad, political analyst at the American University in Beirut, told the Daily News, adding that while Ahmadinejad’s visit last month sought to boost Hezbollah’s domestic standing, Erdoğan’s trip was a show of “support for al-Hariri and his politics.”