Turkish PM: Israel a 'terrorist' state

Turkey's prime minister has labelled Israel a "terrorist" state during a meeting with an Israeli minister in Ankara.

    Erdogan's Turkey is an Israeli ally

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan was referring to the recent Israeli invasion

    of

     Gaza which has been condemned by the international community.

    The invasion resulted in the deaths of dozens of Palestinians and in the destruction of scores of Palestinian homes.

    Erdogan also declined an invitation to visit Israel during Thursday's

    meeting.

    The premier's comments came after Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said he was

    considering upgrading Turkey's diplomatic representation to the Palestinian

    territories by appointing an ambassador.

    Israeli anger

    The Israeli army devastated
    Rafah in last week's invasion

    He also hinted he might recall the

    Turkish ambassador to Israel for consultations in protest at Israeli actions

    in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Israel's Infrastructure Minister, Joseph Paritzky, said he was

    "astonished"

    when Erdogan made the comments and considered walking out of the meeting.

    But Paritzky said the rebuke 

    would not weaken the strong military and economic ties between Israel

    and its sole Muslim ally.

    He told

    Israel Radio:

    "To consider Israel a terrorist state, not to understand the

    fact that we are defending ourselves against terror... this amazed me.

    "I am very sad to see the charismatic, intelligent leader of a friendly

    country compare us to terror organisations."

    Turkey-Israeli relations

    Bilateral trade between Israel and Turkey reached US$1.2 billion in 2002,

    and Turkey has bought US$3 billion worth of Israeli weapons since 1996.

    "To consider Israel a terrorist state, not to understand the

    fact that we are defending ourselves against terror... this amazed me"

    Joseph Paritzky,

    Israel Infrastructure Minister

    Turkey is also a top foreign holiday destination, visited by some 300,000

    Israelis a year.

    While in Ankara, Paritzky oversaw the signing of a US$800 million deal for

    the construction of three natural gas power stations in Israel

    .

    Turkey also recently

    signed a deal to sell water to Israel.

    On the political front, Turkey has repeatedly offered itself as a bridge

    between Israel and the Palestinians.

    But the overwhelming majority of Turks also sympathise with

    their fellow Muslim Palestinians, and Israel's killing of elderly Hamas

    leader Shaykh Ahmad Yasin in March brought angry anti-Israel demonstrators

    onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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