Turning down the knob of rhetoric

Hürriyet Daily News
28 Ocak 2009 - 11:53Son Güncelleme : 28 Ocak 2009 - 11:53

ANKARA - After being accused of favoring Hamas, the Ankara government is showing signs of a move toward a more balanced approach.

Turning down the knob of rhetoric

Foreign Minister Babacan calls on hamas to use peaceful means to achieve its aims as Prime Minister Erdoğan plans to meet with Israeli President Peres and the defense minister says military contracts with Israel are still in place.

The government has come under criticism for its strong rhetoric against Israel during the latest Gaza offensive. In the face of accusations of taking a pro-Hamas stance, Turkey’s political leaders have begun showing signs of toning it down a notch.Foreign Minister ali babacan has called on the Islamic group hamas to use peaceful means to achieve its aims rather than armed struggle and Prime Minister Recep tayyip erdoğan will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres Thursday at a session on Middle East peace, making it the countries’ first high-level encounter since the Turkish leader’s severe criticism of the Israeli military actions in Gaza.In his address, Erdoğan is expected to highlight that his criticism targets not the Israeli people but the Israeli government. "The Israeli president often said in our private meetings that democracy must be privatized; peace must be privatized. We’ll be present at the same session in Davos and I’ll say to him, ’You said democracy must be privatized.’ I think there is no democracy more nationalized than this," Erdoğan told his ruling Justice and Development Party, or akp, deputies in Parliament yesterday. He defended the government’s foreign policy and said some circles were uneasy with the multi-faceted policies that have broken the established taboos. "They have so far said no to a solution in Cyprus, no to the EU, no to Greece, no to Armenia, and no to mediation in regional problems. They’ve said do not establish ties with the Turkic republics, otherwise you will have changed your direction and do not get interested in the Middle East, or you’ll get headache. This is their vision," he said. He said the ruling party would not remain silent to injustice.Erdoğan also blamed the media for distorting the government’s position."There is media in this country that dares to report lies by saying our president was not invited to a dinner," he said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert held a dinner for European leaders who attended a meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh this month on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President abdullah gül participated in the meeting co-chaired by the presidents of Egypt and France but was not invited to the dinner given by Olmert in Israel later in the day. "What happened is different from what they report," said Erdoğan. Erdoğan called Israel’s operations into the Gaza Strip controlled by hamas "a crime against humanity," deploring what he saw as excessive force, and he suggested Israel be barred from the United Nations. His remarks shocked Israel and were interpreted as pro-Hamas. Make a decision"Hamas should make a decision. Do they want to be an armed organization or a political movement?" Babacan said to a group of newspaper journalists yesterday. He said Turkey was not approving of what hamas has done but stressed that peace was impossible without hamas. "We must see the truth," he said. "There is a hamas reality in Gaza. We are not in a position to approve of what hamas is doing but it is not possible to reach success by ignoring hamas. An intermediate formula definitely must be found. A solution must be generated in Gaza in line with the truth," said Babacan. "Our position, as Turkey, is very clear. First of all, we criticized the drama unfolding in Gaza and then we criticized the policies pursued by Israel. We condemned the (Israeli) operations from the very first day. Our PM said many times in the past that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity," he said.In a recent joint letter to Erdoğan, the leaders of five U.S. Jewish groups presented their concerns about Turkish Jews and said what they see as rising anti-Semitism in Turkey is connected to the strong condemnation by Turkish officials of Israel for the recent fighting in Gaza. Government spokesman cemil çiçek said Erdoğan’s criticism targeted the Israeli policies. In an attempt to dispel the concerns among Turkish Jews after the government’s harsh criticism, he said: "Their security is under the guarantee of the Turkish Republic." The strained ties due to the Gaza crisis appear not to affect the military ties between the two regional allies, Turkey and Israel. Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül said yesterday that the agreement with Israel on the purchase of Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems would be followed through, adding Turkey had already received two Heron systems and the remaining would be delivered in April. "There is a schedule for the delivery of Herons and any agreement we abide by is going to be followed through," said a diplomatic source, denying press reports that Israel canceled the military deal due to the Turkish government’s severe criticism of Tel-Aviv.

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