Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks published Wednesday that his highly offensive and reproachful comments branding Zionism a crime against humanity had been misunderstood.
Erdogan, who has become accustomed to attacking the Jewish state, triggered a storm of protest after he alleged at a UN forum in Vienna last month: "As is the case for Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity."
The Turkish prime minister’s accusations unleashed a wave of criticism from Israel and the United States prompting him to put on a façade of regret.
"I understand that my statement in Vienna led to some debate. But no one should misunderstand what I said," Erdogan claimed in an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken ahead of a visit to Copenhagen.
"Everyone should know that my criticisms on certain issues, especially Gaza and the settlements, are directed at Israeli policies," he said.
"It's entirely natural for us to continue to criticize Israel, as long as it will not give up its approach of denying the right to exist of the Palestinian state.
"In several statements I openly condemned anti-Semitism, and it clearly displays my position on this issue. In this context, I stand behind my remarks in Vienna."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayahu responded at the time, calling Erdogan’s remarks “sinister and mendacious.”
"This is a dark and libelous statement the likes of which we thought had disappeared from the world," the prime minister said.
Erdogan has also recently labeled Israel a “terrorist state”, alleging that "Israel violently massacres innocent children in Gaza.”
Relations between Israel and Turkey became increasingly hostile in 2010, when Israeli naval commandos, seeking to protect Israel’s national security, boarded the Mavi Marmara flotilla, filled with pro-Arab activists seeking to infiltrate Israel’s borders. The incident resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists, including one US citizen.