U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for comments linking Zionism with fascism.
“The secretary-general heard the prime minister’s speech through an interpreter,” Ban Ki-moon’s office said in an e-mailed statement today. “If the comment about Zionism was interpreted correctly, then it was not only wrong but contradicts the very principles on which the Alliance of Civilizations is based.”
Kerry, who’s visiting Ankara, said he raised the comments directly in his meeting with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. Such remarks are unhelpful to the search for peace in the Middle East, Kerry told reporters in the Turkish capital. Kerry was headed for a meeting with Erdogan after the press conference.
Turkey’s ties with Israel, once a close military ally, have been strained since Erdogan called Israel’s military operation in Gaza that began in December 2008 “a crime against humanity.” Ties reached a low when nine Turks were killed in an Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship in 2010.
“Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity,” Erdogan said during the Fifth Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna on Feb. 27.
The comment was condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late yesterday. “This is a dark and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought had passed from the world,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.
Kerry said that the U.S. is working to help repair the Turkey-Israel relationship, and that Turkey has expressed “genuine” willingness to do so.
Davutoglu said Turkey isn’t anti-Semitic and that Erdogan’s comments were a reaction to “hostile attitudes” from Israel. Since the raid on the Gaza ship, “instead of remedying the situation, they have been very insistent on adopting the attitude they always have, trying to legitimize their behavior,” he said at the Ankara press conference with Kerry.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy described Erdogan as a “fundamentalist” who “hates us religiously” in a 2009 meeting with former U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey in Ankara, according to a cable sent from the U.S. embassy in October that year and released by WikiLeaks.
The countries downgraded diplomatic ties to the level of charge d’affaires in September 2011 after Turkey asked top Israeli diplomats to leave and withdrew its ambassador over Israel’s refusal to apologize for the killings on the ship.
In November, Turkey put four former Israeli officers, including ex-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, on trial in absentia for the killings.