Istanbul – Turkey rejected as “absolutely unacceptable” accusations by the US that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made “anti-Semitic” remarks in his criticism of Israeli strikes in Gaza, his top press aide said Wednesday.
The latest tensions could further sour the relationship between two NATO allies Turkey and the United States.
“The US statement about our President Erdogan’s remarks on the Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians is absolutely unacceptable,” Erdogan’s press aide Fahrettin Altun tweeted.
The US State Department on Tuesday sharply criticised Erdogan for what it called “anti-Semitic” remarks, urging him and other Turkish leaders to refrain from incendiary comments, “which could incite further violence”.
“The United States strongly condemns President Erdogan’s recent anti-Semitic comments regarding the Jewish people and finds them reprehensible,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. Erdogan has championed the Palestinian cause during his 18-year rule.
He has accused Israel of “terrorism” against the Palestinians. Earlier this week he called them “murderers, to the point that they kill children”.
Erdogan weighed in later Wednesday, defending his comments and vowing to “cry in the highest volume wherever we see cruelty”.
“If a price is to be paid to… speak up for the innocent, we will never hesitate to pay it,” he said in a televised speech.
Before the latest row, Erdogan had spent the past few months trying to mend relations with Washington and reaching out to other Western allies after a year of sharp disputes. But he lashed out at US President Joe Biden for his diplomatic support for Israel and his reported approval of a new arms shipment to the Jewish state. Erdogan has been waging a diplomatic campaign to impose sanctions and other punishments on Israel for a military offensive that has claimed the lives of at least 219 Palestinians in Gaza since May 10.