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Kerry Denounces Erdogan for Calling Zionism a “Crime Against Humanity”

The U.S. has come down hard on Turkey for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements earlier this week calling Zionism a crime against humanity. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Erdogan Friday evening and scolded him for the comments, made at a conference for the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna, which were described by senior U.S. official as being “particularly offensive.” The fallout over Erdogan’s comments has threatened to overshadow Kerry’s meetings on his first overseas trip as Secretary of State, which have until now focused primarily on the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Speaking at a news conference Friday in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Kerry stressed the “urgent need to promote a spirit of tolerance, and that includes all of the public statements made by all leaders.”

During Friday’s conference, Davutoglu reportedly made several comments in reference to the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident between Turkey and Israel in 2010. It was Davutoglu who, following the incident, compared Israeli troops to al-Qaeda:

“It was the Turkish 9/11 – I repeat it!” he exclaimed during a visit to Washington last week. “I don’t mean the numbers,” he added when it was pointed out that 2,900 people died on Sept. 11 and nine in the flotilla fight. “I am trying to express the psychological shock in Turkey. Our citizens were killed by a foreign army.”

“Citizens” discounts that the nine Turks killed aboard the Mavi Marmara were militants attempting to illegally break a blockade. Regardless, tensions between Turkey and Israel have run high ever since, with Erdogan even boasting of blocking NATO initiatives designed to enhance the alliance’s cooperation with Israel, even though such actions have damaged the U.S.-Turkey relationship, not to mention NATO capabilities.

Ironically, Turkey is a cosponsor of a U.N. initiative designed to promote tolerance and understanding between religions. Following Erdogan’s statements in Vienna, the U.N. released a statement condemning the prime minister’s remarks as “contradicting the very principles on which the Alliance of Civilizations is based”:

The statement said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “believes it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership.”

However, Erdogan’s “rising star” power among Islamic nations threatens to complicate diplomatic relations all-around. The initial intention of Kerry’s trip was to discuss the ongoing civil war in Syria and the spillover of sectarian violence, in addition to the more than 150,000 Syrian refugees seeking safety in Turkey.

[Photo: Jewish News One / YouTube]