Fri, Apr 09, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Turkish, Israeli leaders step up war of criticism

AP , PARIS

The Turkish prime minister stepped up criticism of Israel on Wednesday and scoffed at remarks by the Israeli prime minister, a sign of escalating distrust between the Jewish state and its only ally in the Muslim world.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was ending an official visit to France to boost business ties and bolster negotiations for his country’s entry into the EU, has repeatedly criticized Israeli policies since its attack on the Gaza Strip last year.

Erdogan told reporters in Paris that he perceived Israel as the principal threat to Middle East peace since the Gaza offensive, which killed around 1,400 Palestinians.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted he was “sorry that Mr Erdogan chooses to attack Israel again and again.”

Such repeated criticism does not serve the interests of stability and advancing relations in the region, Netanyahu said.

Erdogan dismissed Netanyahu’s remarks, saying they highlighted Israel’s growing isolation.

Israeli authorities “never question themselves,” Erdogan told reporters. “All they do is question what other political leaders say,” he said through a translator.

“Not a day goes by without them being right ... they’re always right: that’s how they view themselves, but that’s not what the rest of the world thinks,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan also warned against more international sanctions or the use of force with Iran, accused by the West of conducting an illegal nuclear enrichment program.

He said he wouldn’t comment on a new set of possible sanctions due to be discussed soon by the UN Security Council until they were made public.

But he said on principle, Turkey will continue to oppose more sanctions. Turkey is a rotating member of the Security Council.

“We want everything to be solved within the framework of international diplomacy,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey has been “friends with Iran” since a 17th century treaty.

Erdogan was speaking at the end of a conference with French business leaders, whom he invited to invest more in Turkey.

The prime minister also spent several hours in talks about the G20, Iran and the EU with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday.

Erdogan hopes strong business ties and closer diplomatic efforts with France and Germany will eventually help reverse the two countries’ opposition to Turkey’s membership.

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