Turkey's Erdogan condemns Israel over Gaza

 

Associated Press

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan intensified his fiery rhetoric against Israel over its ground invasion of Gaza on Friday, accusing the country of state terrorism and genocide and saying the two countries will not mend ties on his watch.

Earlier, hundreds of protesters pelted the top Israeli diplomat's residence in Ankara with stones, and the private Dogan news agency said police in Istanbul used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters trying to enter the Israeli Consulate grounds. Turkish legislators leaving a late-night debate in parliament also protested against Israel.

Turkey intensified security around Israeli missions but the demonstrations prompted Israel to call home the families of Israeli diplomats and to keep staff in the embassy and consulate to a minimum.

Tzachi Moshe, a spokesman for Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said Israel "sharply protested the flagrant violation of diplomatic rules."

Erdogan told reporters after Muslim Friday prayers: "Israel threatens world peace. Israel threatens peace in the Middle East. Therefore, I personally, can never contemplate anything positive with Israel as long as I remain on duty."

"Israel is at the moment waging terrorism; Israel at the moment is carrying out genocide," he said.

Turkey and Israel had been working toward improving ties that were soured after Israeli commandos stormed a pro-Palestinian aid ship in 2010, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and recalled its own top envoy following the incident.

Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths and agreed to pay compensation under a U.S.-brokered arrangement in 2013. Turkish officials said in March the sides were close to reaching a compensation deal that would lead to a restoration of ties.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the department believes Erdogan's statements are "offensive and wrong."

"And, of course, this kind of provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a cease-fire," she said.

Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.

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