INTERNATIONAL > US, Turkey divided on Israel after PM Erdoğan's Zionism remarks


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Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (R) meets top US diplomat Kerry in Ankara. AA photo

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan (R) meets top US diplomat Kerry in Ankara. AA photo

Sevil Erkuş Sevil Erkuş sevil.kucukkosum@hdn.com.tr

Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s talks in Ankara could have displayed a rosy picture, since it was his first rendezvous with the Turkish leadership in his current capacity, yet Washington’s strong uneasiness over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s likening Zionism to crimes against humanity dominated the talks.

While publicly labeling the remarks by Erdoğan as “objectionable,” Kerry also delivered a carefully tailored warning to his country’s NATO ally over significance of freedom of expression for reaching to democratic standards.

“We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable,” Kerry said on March 1 at a joint press conference following talks with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, as he noted that he had raised the issue directly with Davutoğlu and would do so with Erdoğan during his meeting, which was scheduled to take place shortly after the press conference.

Kerry’s remarks on the issue were delivered in response to a question that also offered an opportunity to him to underline the importance Washington attaches to restoring bilateral relations between Turkey and Israel, which he described as two “vital allies” for the United States. Earlier, in his opening remarks before the questions by reporters, he underlined “the urgent need to promote the spirit of tolerance” and said this urgency was also valid for public statements by political leaders. 

As of Feb. 27, at a U.N. Alliance of Civilizations meeting in Vienna, Erdoğan said: “Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”

“It [Erdoğan’s] underscores the importance of our efforts to try to find a way to make peace in this region,” Kerry said, while cautioning that the comments by Erdoğan on Zionism complicate Mideast peace efforts.

Expressing conviction in finding a way forward for restoring the relationship between the two countries, Kerry, however, admitted that this way “obviously gets complicated” following the Vienna speech.

“We want to see them work together in order to be able to go beyond. I believe that’s possible. It is essential that Turkey and Israel find a way to take a step in order to rekindle their historic cooperation,” Kerry said, while noting that Davutoğlu also expressed a “genuine desire” for rebuilding ties with Israel. During their meeting, Davutoğlu voiced Turkey’s commitment to the Middle East peace process and a two-state solution, Kerry said. “They want to help us.”

Another bothersome issue Kerry touched upon without waiting for a specific question from reporters was the state of affairs surrounding the freedom of expression in Turkey. 

“We discussed the importance of strengthening protection of fundamental rights, freedom of expression and freedom of media. History has proved that nations that worked constantly to safeguard these rights democracy are far more successful, far more stable and far more prosperous,” Kerry said. 

For his part, Davutoğlu strictly rejected that Turkey has been acting “hostile” toward Israel, when a U.S.-based reporter particularly used this expression in his question. 

Turkey has been against anti-Semitism along its history and will continue this stance regardless of its bilateral relations with Israel who hasn’t used the chance given to them for restoring of ties, Davutoğlu said, in an apparent reference to Turkey’s conditions of normalization.

“Turkey is always ready to do whatever it needs for a fair two-state solution based on 1967 borders,” he, however, added, as his U.S. counterpart already said that one of the reasons taking him to Ankara was revival of Middle East peace process and seeking Turkey’s help. 

Both Kerry and Davutoğlu chose not to highlight differences of their countries regarding the Syrian crisis, as they both underlined their common conviction on priority of a political transition in the war-torn country. Although Ankara’s cooperation with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) despite Baghdad’s objection is a source of uneasiness, the issue didn’t come up at the press conference.


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Notice on comments

Bear Klein

3/3/2013 9:30:19 PM

Zionist Medicine okay for Erodgan's Ex- finance minister, who has stem cell treatment in Israel. Kemal Unak?tan spent nearly two-and-a-half months at the International Center for Cell Therapy & Cancer Immunotherapy in Tel Aviv. He received groundbreaking stem cell treatment to wean him off dialysis and avoid a kidney transplant. I thought the Zionism was a crime against humanity?

john albay

3/3/2013 6:59:50 PM

@alkan,what do you mean? you have supplied all the facts,he of couse as a jew supports the evil zionists,and everything I posted are facts,so explain the putting your foot in it remark!!,or are you supporting the zionists?

alkan alkan

3/3/2013 4:35:21 PM

Remember before putting your foot in it next time: John Kerry's paternal grandfather was JEWISH with the surname KOHN... After emigrating to the USA from Austria this was changed to Kerry. His great uncle and aunt both perished in Nazi concentration camps.

kibrisli TURK

3/3/2013 3:59:41 PM

Zionism is a racist, exclusionary policy aimed at expropriating existing citizens & demolisihing their existence, right to self-determination & building over it with illegal settlements under an illegal occupation...hence, a crime against humanity!!!

Pawel Bury

3/3/2013 2:23:55 PM

@robert, cause they like him, they like what he says, they like what he does. Simple.


3/3/2013 4:05:26 AM

National socialism! What on earth can be wrong with that? Looking at its current implementation, is there any reason at all not to lump Zionism with Nazism? No good has come out of any -ism in history. Kerry should be displaying the same sensitivity for the US citizen Israeli thugs brutally murdered on Mavi Marmara.

David Bensoussan

3/2/2013 10:25:05 PM

Quote: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Erdogan’s “hurtful and divisive comments” were “not only wrong" but “contradict the very principles on which the Alliance of Civilizations is based.”

john albay

3/2/2013 10:17:39 PM

@d.ellison. Turkey is a great country with an expanding econony,with a young work force,and with a army/military that is the 2nd largest in NATO.The PM(I would not vote for him) is doing a great job standing up to the zionist jews in israel who murder innocent Turks on the high seas,bomb innocent women and children in the gaza strip and kill people in their prisons,and send out murder squads to other countries using stolen passports. So first check the israeli murdering goverment before Turkey.

robert wolf

3/2/2013 8:49:10 PM

Why do the Turkish people put up with this dictator

Tomas Rivera

3/2/2013 8:45:32 PM

Jobs jon. You are aware of the fact that the UN cleared Israel of breaking any laws in the Mavi case right? You are aware that in 70 years of existence Israel has not increased its land area right? You are aware that Israel has been attacked repeatedly since 1967 over and over right? Did you know that Hamas (Erdogan's pals, have vowed the destruction of Israel and to never recognize right?
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