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Turkey’s Erdogan Mocks Assad for Not Attacking Israel, Rebuffs Israeli Overtures

Turkish media is reporting that renewed Israeli overtures to mend ties with Ankara – conveyed via multiple messages about hopes for a more “positive dynamic” – have, again, been declined:

Turkish diplomatic sources have declined to comment on a report in a Jerusalem-based online newspaper that said efforts initiated by Israel three weeks ago in Rome to solve the diplomatic crisis with Turkey ended in failure, saying the Turkish Foreign Ministry doesn’t comment on such reports… When asked about the details of the meeting, a senior Turkish diplomat, speaking to Today’s Zaman on condition of anonymity, declined to comment, saying Turkey’s demands of Israel for mending ties were clear.

Meanwhile Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken to mocking Syrian leader Basher al-Assad as a “mute devil”  for not attacking Israel:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan received several rounds of applause at a government communications forum in the United Arab Emirates, which has joined other Gulf nations in backing Syrian rebels seeking to topple President Bashar Assad. “We will not remain silent in the face of the cruel dictator, the mute devil, who mercilessly carried out massacres against his own people, but who has remained silent and unresponsive toward those who have occupied his own territories for decades,” Erdogan told the gathering in Sharjah, just north of Dubai.

Erdogan’s comments echo those of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – once described by US diplomatic cables as “exceptionally dangerous” and “lost in neo-Ottoman Islamist fantasies” – calling on Syria to attack Israel, and implying that Ankara would do it if Damascus didn’t.

Some foreign policy analysts have speculated that such comments from Turkish leaders are borne of frustration regarding Israel’s apparent ability to penetrate Syrian air defenses at will, whereas last June Assad’s military shot down a Turkish F-4 operating off the Syrian coast. Others have suggested an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in Ankara’s posture. Turkish diplomats were recently forced to contain the damage from reemerged statements by Erdogan in which the then-mayor of Istanbul accused Jews of “crush[ing] the Muslims of Palestine” and contrasted Turkish investment practices with how Jews “wherever [they] settle… make money.”

Turkey’s ongoing hostility to Israel, which experts have described as “schoolyard behavior,” is increasingly being criticized for directly undermining U.S. interests. Turkish officials have bragged about excluding Israel from renewable energy and NATO forums. The latter moves directly undermined NATO’s ability to work with Israel and to project power into the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has also excluded Israel from counter-terrorism forums, frustrating  officials who point out that Israel is a global leader in the field whose absence endangers efforts to prevent and stem terrorism.

[Photo: World Economic Forum / Flickr]