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U.S. Criticizes Erdogan After His Latest Anti-Israel Remarks

Erdogan accuses Israel of "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza, U.S. says the comments are "not helpful".
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/21/2012, 3:45 AM

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
AFP/File

The United States criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday, after he once again chose to attack Israel over its counter-terrorist operation in Gaza.

In his latest hateful remarks, Erdogan accused Israel of "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza, saying the Jewish state's air raids could not be considered self-defense.

"Israel is committing ethnic cleansing by ignoring peace in this region and violating international law," Erdogan said, according to AFP. "It is occupying the Palestinian territory step by step."

He further claimed that Israeli air raids against Gaza could not be deemed self-defense, accusing Western countries of aiding what he called a "terrorist state" by condoning its violence in the Middle East.

"Sooner or later, Israel will answer for the innocent blood it has shed so far," he said.

Erdogan also said that Turkey, Egypt and the Gulf countries, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, had to take their own initiative, accusing the United Nations Security Council of doing nothing to save Gazans.

"It is against them today, tomorrow it will be us, keep that in mind," he said. "If we are going to die, let's go down with decency. Keep that in mind too."

The United States in turn criticized Erdogan’s harsh words, AFP reported.

"Some of the extremely harsh rhetoric coming from Turkey we do not consider helpful at all," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, according to the report.

"Of course we don't agree with some of these very difficult statements that have been coming there. And we've made those views clear to the Turks," she added.

Nuland said that State Department officials have "made clear ... to the Turkish government our concerns that this kind of rhetoric is not helpful."

On Monday, Erdogan called Israel a "terrorist state" that "massacres innocent children,” and accused the United Nations of failing to act over Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

He accused the UN Security Council of "turning a blind eye" to the suffering of Muslims across the world and called for "sincere action" to end Israel's strikes on Gaza.

The international community is watching "as Israel violently massacres innocent children in Gaza," Erdogan said in an address to religious leaders of Muslim countries gathered in Istanbul, labeling Israel "a terrorist state".

On Saturday, Erdogan said that Israel was "making an international racket" over civilians killed by Hamas rockets.

Turkey’s already strained relations with Israel broke down completely following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. The vessel, owned by the Turkish IHH group, was one of six sent to illegally breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza as a “humanitarian flotilla” but was found to be carrying nothing.

When the vessels ignored repeated Israeli navy requests to redirect their boats to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to force them to port, where the humanitarian aid they were allegedly carrying could be off-loaded and carried to Gaza through the land crossings with Israel.

In the case of the Mavi Marmara, however, the Israeli soldiers – armed only with pistols and paint-ball training guns – were brutally attacked by the “activists” as they boarded, with several critically injured. The commandos who followed them shot and killed their attackers, leaving nine dead.

Turkish leaders demanded an apology for the incident, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.