Turkish minister cancels Munich conference program due to Israeli participation

Turkish minister cancels Munich conference program due to Israeli participation

Turkish minister cancels Munich conference program due to Israeli participation

AA Photo

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has canceled his participation in the Munich Security Conference in a last-minute decision, after an Israeli government member joined the panel he was due to speak on.

“I was planning to join the conference but I reversed my decision after Israeli representatives were added to the session on the Middle East. Our relations with Germany are not limited to the Munich Conference. This is an international conference and is not an issue concerning our bilateral ties. That’s why this move is not against Germany,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Berlin on Feb. 6.

There were no Israeli representatives on the initial list of participants, so Turkey responded to the initial invitation positively, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News. However, Israeli representatives were later added to the participants list, prompting the ministry’s decision to reverse its decision to attend the conference.

However, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu will still attend the conference, according to the official.

Çavuşoğlu was in Berlin to meet Turkey’s consul-generals serving in Germany and hold meetings with representatives of the Turkish community.

He was planning to head to Munich from Berlin on the afternoon of Feb. 6, but canceled his program after the conference included Israeli Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz in the session on the Middle East at the last minute.

Turkey’s relations have been tense with Israel since nine Turks and one Turkish-American were killed and several other pro-Palestinian activists were wounded when Israeli commandos stormed the ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, which was trying to break the blockade on Gaza. The relationship between the two countries has worsened since then with both sides withdrawing their ambassadors and reducing the level of diplomatic representation in each other’s capitals.

Numerous efforts to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel have failed, including the one initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama in early 2012. Israel has officially apologized to Turkey for its Mavi Marmara operation, but an agreement to normalize relations has not been accomplished. In recent years, Turkish and Israel officials have often engaged in wars of words criticizing each other’s policies.

The Munich Security Conference has been organized annually since 1963 and has become one of the major venues where global security issues are discussed with the participation of high-level government officials, politicians and academics. Turkish officials have joined the conference in previous years with both Abdullah Gül and Ahmet Davutoğlu attending in their capacity as foreign ministers.

Çavuşoğlu was planning to hold a series of bilateral meetings as part of the conference, but sources say they were not of vital importance.