Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan and South African Deputy
President Kgalema Motlanthe answer questions during a press conference
in Pretoria.(AFP/South African Dirc Jacoline Prinsloo)
Israel is a “threat” to its region because it owns nuclear weapons, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday. “I right now see Israel as a threat for its region, because it has the atomic bomb,” Erdogan said in a foreign policy speech during an official visit to South Africa. He also accused Israel of committing “state terrorism.”
Erdogan in the past has accused the West of “double standards” in the way that it has tried to ban Iran from building nuclear weapons without taking similar measures against Israel. Israel has never officially admitting to possessing nuclear weapons. Turkey downgraded relations with one-time ally Israel after the latter refused to apologize for its raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were killed on May 31, 2010.
Last month, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and froze military ties and defense trade deals. Ankara has also threatened to send warships to escort any Turkish vessels trying to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza. Erdogan’s remarks came in response to comments from an Israeli embassy diplomat in South Africa, who Hamas for launching rocket attacks into Israeli territory.
“I have asked many Israeli officials, how many Israelis, have been killed by rockets launched from Gaza and Palestine. I could not get an answer,” Erdogan said. “Yet tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed from bombs that have rained down on them from Israel.” “You sleep at night peacefully and secure,” he told the diplomat, to applause by South African foreign affairs officials and members of the diplomatic corps. “Yet Palestinians can’t find a single trace of peace in Palestine.”
Erdogan also said Israel had attacked the Gaza Strip as well as the UN buildings in Gaza with phosphorus bombs.
In recent months, the United States has been alarmed at the estrangement between Turkey and its closest Middle East ally Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to urge Turkey to defuse tension and repair strategic ties with Israel when she visits Istanbul to attend a conference on Afghanistan next month. Clinton will visit Turkey on November 2, Marc Grossman, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was quoted as saying in the Turkish media.