Another step in the deteriorating relations between Israel and Turkey toook place on Thursday, with hints that Israel is behind the leakage of tapes of secret talks betwen Ankara's intelligence personnel and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a disclosure that shocked the Turkish public and put Erdogan's government on the defensive.
Erdogan, obviously furious, sought to defend National Intelligence Organization Chief, Hakan Fidan, in his release to the press. He had previously denied the taped conversations took place.
“We know certain circles have targeted Hakan Fidan in the past,” Erdogan said in reference to past Israeli claims that Fidan is pro-Iranian.
According to Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News, comments made last year by Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the issue caused a rift between Jerusalem and Ankara and affected the cooperation between Turkey's intelligence services and Israel's Mossad.
“We are investigating how the leakage happened," Erdogan said. "Even if Mr. Hakan makes a mistake, we would not sacrifice him for this reason. This has revealed the ill-intention of the perpetrators of this leakage. This won’t bring anything to them."
The Turkish leader blasted the opposition for using the leaked tapes as political weapons.
“We are not approving the use of this recording as a political tool by the opposition,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan declared that he instructed Fidan and former MIT head Emre Taner to meet with the PKK's expelled leader Abdullah Ocalan, currently serving a life sentence in a prison on an island near Istanbul.
Despite Erdogan's rebuttal, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) continued to criticize him for sanctioning the meetings.
“The government’s negotiations with the terror organization have been documented with this recording," the CHP’s deputy parliamentary group leader said. "The Prime Minister should immediately apologize to the Turkish people and then resign.”
A Turkish news agency reported an intentional snub when the Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagis, walked out of a conference in the Ukrainian city of Yalta shortly before President Shimon Peres’ scheduled speech.