Turkey, US in row over Erdoğan’s remarks on Israel
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s strong-worded criticism against Israel and the United States over the former’s military operations in Gaza has transformed into a diplomatic spat between Ankara and Washington, with Erdoğan calling for the U.S. to be “self-critical” over its Israel policy.
“If America is still saying that ‘Israel is using its right to self-defense’ then it should be critical of itself. It’s America who is offensive,” Erdoğan told TGRT on July 20 in an interview.
Erdoğan’s remarks came in response to Jan Psaki, the spokesperson of the State Department, who said on July 18 that the “U.S. believes [Erdoğan’s] statements were offensive and wrong.”
The prime minister’s tone against Israel has increased since the Israeli army launched a ground operation into Gaza, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians. The prime minister accused Israel of committing genocide on the Palestinian people and called the country “a threat to international peace.” He further sharpened his statements on July 18 and 19 during public rallies, while he also criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement that “Israel has the right to self-defense.”
“They always curse [Adolf] Hitler, but they [Israel] now even exceed him in barbarism. Some Americans ask why the prime minister [Erdoğan] makes such comparisons with Hitler. What’s that to you? You’re America, what’s Hitler got to do with you?” Erdoğan said on July 19, during a public rally in Ordu.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have exchanged two phone calls in the last three days to discuss ways of reaching a lasting agreement between Israel and Hamas, as well as how to avoid a major diplomatic rift between Ankara and Washington over the heated recent public statements. A Turkish delegation led by Feridun Sinirlioğlu, undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, is set to hold talks in Washington, D.C. between July 21 and 23, during which mounting regional concerns, including Iraq, Syria and Israel as well as bilateral relations will be raised.
‘How can America turn a blind eye?’
Prime Minister Erdoğan said it was concerning that many world powers were siding with Israel. “America has to contribute more to world peace. It has to treat [us] fairly as a member of the U.N. Security Council,” he said.
“These are all because [Israel] terrorizes [the region]. It mercilessly kills people and it has betrayed [humanity] through its killings, without caring whether they are children or not, while even killing children on the beach,” he said, adding that a total of 280 resolutions against Israel had been adopted by the U.N.
“How can a country like America turn a blind eye to these atrocities? As we continue our diplomatic relations, our hearts are also broken when they make statements [on these issues]. They should let us say what we think. Are we going to read the texts that they are writing?” Erdoğan added.
Psaki: Offensive and wrong
In her daily briefing, Spokesperson Psaki described Erdoğan’s words as “provocative.” “Certainly, we believe his statements are offensive and wrong and, of course, this kind of provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a ceasefire,” she said on July 18.
“What we’re continuing to convey to every country in the region, including Turkey, is that the most productive role they can play is supporting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. When there are concerns we have about comments made or actions taken, even when it is a NATO ally, we certainly don’t hesitate to make those concerns known,” Psaki added.
On another question about Erdoğan’s statement that what’s happening in Gaza is a new “crusader” campaign against Islam, Psaki said “I think it’s safe to say that it’s not the direction the U.S. is attempting to take.”