Turkey criticizes U.S. request to delay PM's Gaza visit

ANKARA Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:04pm EDT

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey on Monday criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for asking Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to delay his planned visit to the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in a blunt put-down that underlined often prickly ties between the NATO allies.

Erdogan, who has for years spoken of his desire to visit the Palestinian enclave, said last week he planned to go in late May after an official visit to the United States earlier in the same month.

But during a visit to Turkey on Sunday, Kerry said he had asked the Turkish leader to delay his visit so as not to upset U.S. efforts to revive Ankara's ties with Israel and Middle East peace talks.

"Mr. Kerry's statement ... from a diplomatic perspective was objectionable, wrong and was incorrect," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara.

"Only the Turkish government decides when and where the prime minister or any other Turkish official travels to," said Arinc, who also serves as the government spokesman.

During a visit to Turkey in March, Kerry also called a comment by Erdogan likening Zionism to crimes against humanity "objectionable", in a disagreement that has cast a pall over talks between Turkey and the United States.

Erdogan had been expected to visit Hamas-controlled Gaza this month but postponed his trip, apparently at the request of the United States. However, Arinc said Erdogan would have visited this month had his schedule allowed.

He will travel to Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on May 16.

Hamas's refusal to recognize the Jewish state and past vows to destroy it are a key reason behind an Israeli blockade of the coastal territory since Hamas seized it from the more moderate pro-Western Fatah movement in 2007.

Europe and the United States have long demanded Hamas drop violence and recognize Israel as a condition for any dialogue.

Erdogan's planned trip would also come at a sensitive time for Turkish-Israeli relations, frozen after the 2010 killing by Israeli marines of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.

In March Obama brokered a first step in reconciliation between Turkey and Israel, two main allies of Washington in the Middle East, by persuading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey over the incident.

ISRAELI DELEGATION

In another sign of rapprochement, an Israeli delegation was in Ankara on Monday for the first time since 2010 to discuss compensation to the victims' families.

"The meeting was generally a positive meeting ... the amount of compensation was not discussed ... and was not determined, but methods and rules of calculating the amount were discussed during the meeting," Arinc said after the talks.

Arinc said a second and possible third meeting would be held in order to resolve the issue, which would be a "major step toward full restoration of diplomatic ties".

The head of the Turkish delegation meeting the Israelis said the next meeting would be held in the next few days.

Turkey cut its once extensive ties with the Jewish state after the so-called "Mavi Marmara" incident in 2010, named after the Turkish ship which led the flotilla that tried to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Ankara expelled Israel's ambassador and froze military cooperation after a U.N. report into the incident, released in September 2011, largely exonerated the Jewish state.

It set precise conditions for normalizing ties - an apology, compensation and Israel lifting its embargo on Gaza.

A mending of ties between two of Washington's main allies in the region could bolster U.S. influence in the Middle East, help coordination to contain the spillover from the Syrian civil war and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation among its neighbors.

But for all the diplomatic flurry, a full restoration of ties still appeared some way off.

Israel has made clear it did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of the reconciliation, an oft-repeated Turkish demand, saying days after the apology that it could clamp down even harder on the enclave if security was threatened.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi and Jonathon Burch; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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Comments (2)
Adam_Smith wrote:
There should be no reason to object to a mere “request” — not in itself. How does it happen, however, that the request and its refusal are public knowledge? Surely such a request should have been made privately and discretely. As a new Sec’y of State, Kerry is probably making some simple errors.

Apr 22, 2013 1:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Jimmy1234 wrote:
Mr.Kerry disagree about the crimes of Zionism against humanity, the Jewish lobbyist paid him pretty well. How long will he deny the facts?What about the compensation of Palestinian land and lives? How much Israel will pay to Palestinian family to burn their kids on the street by using Phosphorus bomb?
1. Did you know that non-Jewish Israelis cannot buy or lease land in Israel? A Jew from any country in the world is guaranteed citizenship in Israel, while the Palestinians who have been there for centuries are oppressed and persecuted.

2. Did you know that instead of sewing an insignia on clothing to distinguish race (like the Germans did to the Jews before WW2), Palestinian license plates in Israel are color coded to distinguish Jews from non-Jews?

3. Did you know that East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights are all considered by the entire world community, including the United States and the United Nations, to be occupied territory and NOT part of the State of Israel?

4. Did you know that Israel allots 85% of the water resources for Jews, and the remaining 15% is divided among all Palestinians in the territories? For example in Hebron, 85% of the water is set aside for about 400 Jewish settlers, while the remaining 15% is distributed among Hebron’s 120, 000 Palestinians?

5. Did you know that the United States awards Israel $5 billion in aid each year from American tax dollars?

6. Did you know that US aid to Israel ($1.8 billion annually in military aid alone) exceeds the aid the US grants to the entire African continent? This aid is used both to buy American weaponry and to buy arms made in Israel.

7. Did you know that Israel is awaiting an additional $4 billion worth of American military hardware, including new F-16s and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. As Israel’s main ally and supporter internationally, the United States is committed to maintaining the Jewish state’s “qualitative edge” in weapons over its neighbours.

8. Did you know that the U.S. administration has notified Congress on numerous occasions that Israel has violated the rules on how US-supplied weapons are used? (In 1978, 1979 and 1982 during fighting in Lebanon, and once after Israel’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.)

9. Did you know that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and bars international inspections from its sites?

10. Did you know that high-ranking military officers in the Israeli Defence Forces have admitted publicly that unarmed prisoners of war have been summarily executed by the Israeli forces?

11. Did you know that Israel blew up an American diplomatic facility in Egypt and attacked a US warship in international waters (the USS Liberty), killing 33 and wounding 177 American sailors and the US did nothing about it? (Imagine if an Islamic country like Iraq did this!)

12. Did you know that Israel stands in defiance of 69 United Nations Security Council Resolutions?

13. Did you know that Israel is explicitly dedicated to the policy of maintaining a distinct Jewish character?

14. Did you know that Israel’s current Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was found by an Israeli court to be “personally and directly responsible” for the Sabra and Shatilla massacre in Lebanon where more than a thousand innocent Palestinian men, women, and children were axed to death or lined up and shot in cold blood?

15. Did you know that on May 20, 1990, a group of unarmed Palestinian labourers were lined up and murdered by an Israeli solider as they sat waiting for transportation back to Gaza? The terrified labourers who gathered in an area of southern Israel known as Rishon Lezion (known to Palestinians by its Arabic name Oyon Qara) handed their ID cards to the Israeli soldier. The soldiers ordered the distressed labourers to kneel down and face the ground and unexpectedly showered them with a barrage of bullets, killing seven and wounding many others. Needless to say, the soldier was not charged with any crime.

16. Did you know that until as recently as 1988, Israelis were permitted to run “Jews Only” job ads?

17. Did you know that the Israeli Foreign Ministry pays six US public relations firms to promote a “positive image” of Israel to the American public?

18. Did you know that Sharon’s coalition government includes a party–Molodet–which advocates ethnic cleansing by openly calling for the forced expulsion of all Palestinians from the occupied territories?

19. Did you know that recently-declassified documents indicate that David Ben-Gurion approved of the forced expulsion of Arabs from all Palestinian territory in 1948?

20. Did you know that the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, who is also a founder and spiritual leader of the religious Shas party (Israel’s third largest political party) openly advocates a ‘Final Solution’ to annihilate the Palestinians? Speaking at the widely broadcast sermon marking the last Passover, he declared of the Palestinians: “The Lord shall return their deeds on their own heads, waste their seed and exterminate them, devastate them and vanish them from this world. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.”

21. Did you know that Palestinian refugees make up the largest portion of the refugee population in the world?

22. Did you know that Palestinian Christians are considered the “living stones” of Christianity because they are the direct descendants of the disciples of Jesus Christ? And the Palestinian Christians stand united with their Muslim brethren in the struggle against the Israeli occupation.

23. Did you know that despite a ban on torture by Israel’s High Court of Justice, torture has continued unabated by Shin Bet interrogators on Palestinian prisoners?

24. Did you know that despite every Israeli attempt to disrupt Palestinian education, Palestinians have the highest ratio of PhDs per capita in the world?

25. Did you know that the right of self-determination is guaranteed to every human being under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [December, 1948], yet Palestinians were/are expected to negotiate for this right under the Oslo Accords?

26. Did you know that despite what is widely perpetuated and written in the history books that the Arabs attacked Israel in the 1967 war, it was Israel who attacked the Arab countries first, capturing Jerusalem and the West Bank, and called the attack a pre-emptive strike?

27. Did you know that, as an occupying power, Israel has a particular responsibility under the Geneva Conventions to protect Palestinian civilians?

28. Did you know that, despite Ariel Sharon’s public call for a unilateral ceasefire, Israeli soldiers have not stopped shooting, killing or bulldozing Palestinian homes? The most recent example of this is the murder of three innocent women who were shot by an Israeli tank as they sat in their tent!

29. Did you know that the Zionists have been trying to destroy Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock for the last 50 years by digging underground tunnels beneath the sites to weaken its foundation causing it to collapse?

30. Nelson Mandela called the Israeli government an apartheid regime, just like South Africa used to be.

Apr 22, 2013 5:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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