ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Turkey’s foreign minister lashed out at Israeli policy in the Middle East in comments published Tuesday in the latest flare up of the deteriorating relationship between the longtime regional allies.
“If it [Israel] adopts aggressive policies, then Turkey will respond to this,” the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat quoted Ahmet Davutoglu as saying.
“We will not remain silent on Israel’s attacks on innocent Palestinian people,” he said.
“What counts for us is the motive and not the relationship itself. If the aim is peace, then we will preserve good relations with any side,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Last month during a visit in France, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded Israel the “principal threat to peace” in the region.
Davutoglu said, “When Israel’s policies were based on diplomatic dialogue and peace we had good relations in 2008,” but this changed after the “Israelis attacked Gaza.”
“Turkey is against military tensions in the region. Five years ago, we witnessed a war in Lebanon, then in Gaza and we do not want the scenario repeated,” he said.
Davutoglu also urged Israel to restart peace talks with Syria, which Israel has recently accused of supplying Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement with scud missiles. Syria, however, denying the allegations, described the claim as part of an effort to instigate tensions in the region.
“Unfortunately, our region is going through a very turbulent period. In 2008, negotiations were taking place on the Israeli-Palestinian track and on the Syrian-Israeli track. But currently, no talks are being held which makes this period uncertain and dangerous,” Davutoglu said, according to a translation by Mideastwire.
The Israelis have to stop violating Lebanese airspace and Lebanese waters, he said, according to Mideastwire. If Israel chooses to follow the “path of peace and negotiations, and has a concrete vision… and a will to start indirect peace talks… with Syria, then Turkey will be glad to help in achieving this, as it has done before,” the minister told the Saudi-owned London-based daily.
Turkey brokered preliminary peace talks between Israel and Syria in 2008, which were broken off when Israel launched a devastating 22-day offensive against the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
In a memorable outburst, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009, after telling Israeli President Shimon Peres, “You know well how to kill people.”
Relations were further strained after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol in January to protest a TV series for provoking anti-Semitism, seating him on a lower sofa without shaking his hand.
After the Turkish government threatened to recall its ambassador over the public dressing down, the Israeli government sent a letter of apology that was deemed satisfactory by the Turkish side.