Tensions rise in Turkey’s dispute with Israel

Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry and an expert on relations with Turkey, said Mr Ayalon’s treatment of the ambassador had made “Israeli diplomacy look ridiculous.”

IOA Editor: The “thugs” of Gaza, to quote former Israeli Foreign Minister Livni, let their thuggery spill into the diplomatic arena.  No wonder they look ridiculous.


By Tobias Buck in Jerusalem and Delphine Strauss in Ankara, Financial Times – 13 Jan 2010
www.ft.com

Israel on Wednesday night issued a formal apology to Turkey over the treatment of the country’s ambassador in a last-minute bid to prevent simmering tensions between the two countries from escalating further.

Abdullah Gul, Turkish president, had earlier threatened to withdraw the ambassador from Israel “for consultations” unless the “problem” created by Israel’s treatment of the envoy was “resolved”.

On Monday, Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, summoned Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, the Turkish ambassador, to receive a formal protest over the portrayal of Israel in a television drama shown in Turkey. This showed Israeli agents abducting children.

Mr Ayalon, a former ambassador to the US but now a member of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, called the Turkish diplomat into his office and made him sit on a low sofa.

Mr Ayalon perched on a high chair, while the table between the two men carried an Israeli, but no Turkish, flag. According to Israeli media reports, Mr Ayalon then turned to the assembled journalists and said in Hebrew: “We just want it to be seen that he is seated below us and that there is only one flag here, and as you can see, we are not smiling.”

Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry and an expert on relations with Turkey, said Mr Ayalon’s treatment of the ambassador had made “Israeli diplomacy look ridiculous”.

The flare-up has alarmed Israeli policymakers who see Turkey as a rare regional ally. The spats are symptomatic of a broader deterioration that has hit trade and tourism as well as military and security co-operation.

Mr Liel said Israel had the most to lose. “We need Turkey much more than Turkey needs us. We are isolated in the Middle East and Turkey is a prominent player.

“They have problems with one country in the region – Israel – and we have problems with 20 out of 22 countries around us.”

Mr Ayalon issued a statement late on Tuesday saying it was not his way to “disrespect [the] ambassador’s honour” – but it did little to calm tempers.

Sinan Ulgen, head of the Edam think-tank in Istanbul, said the Turkish prime minister “believes there is no imminent cost associated with alienating Israel”.

In the autumn, Turkey barred Israel from joining Nato military exercises held on its territory.

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