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US, PM agree on isolation of Israel

ISTANBUL / TEL AVIV | 10/3/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Erdoğan claims that Israel government is responsible for its isolation following Panetta’s remarks calling on Israel to ease its diplomatic relations

The Israeli government itself is to blame for Tel Aviv’s increasing isolation in the region, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday following a statement from the U.S. defense secretary expressing worry at Israel’s worsening diplomatic position.

“Israel has chosen isolation by losing a friend like Turkey. It is not the people of Israel but the government of Israel that has chosen isolation,” said Erdoğan at a press conference Monday in Istanbul. “Our statements on Israel do not target the people of Israel or the Jewish citizens of Turkey. It is the Israeli government to which we make statements.” The Arab Spring has left Israel “increasingly isolated,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on his plane before landing in Israel on a Middle East tour. Panetta said it was key for Israel to shore up its ties with Egypt and Turkey as well as other regional nations that had proved to be valuable partners in the past and added that Washington was willing to help. “I think for the security of that region, it’s really important that we do everything possible to try and help them re-establish relations with countries like Turkey and with Egypt,” said Panetta. Speaking at the news conference with Panetta Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “It is clear that in the world as a whole there are many who would like to see Israel cornered into a sort of isolation and it is clear to us that we have a responsibility to try to moderate, to ease tensions.” “I think they recognize that it’s important to try to do whatever they can to try to improve those relations,” Panetta said. A spokesman for Panetta, George Little, said the Pentagon chief viewed Israel’s isolation as the product of its own actions as well as events beyond its control, including Iran’s support for militants hostile to Israel.

Compiled from AFP and AA stories by the Daily News staff.

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