Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
April 6, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel, in a sharply worded response to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest rhetorical slam, advised him on Monday night “not to turn into another extreme leader such as Hugo Chavez.”

Erdogan should not try to integrate his country into the Arab world at Israel’s expense, a Foreign Ministry official said, in a rare direct response to one of Erdogan’s now almost routine attacks on Israel.

The official, reading from a ministry response, said Israel was not looking for a confrontation with any country, including Turkey. But, he said, the impression being created is that Erdogan wants to integrate his country into the Arab world “onIsrael’s back.”

“We suggest he look for a more creative way to integrate both into the Muslim and Western worlds,” the official said, and “not to turn into another extreme leader such as Hugo Chavez.”

The official said Israel hoped that in light of Erdogan’s professed concern for Muslims all around the world, he would express sorrow at the long line of murders of innocent Pakistanis and Iraqis by terrorist organizations.

The official’s response came when he was asked for a reaction to Erdogan’s comments on CNN-Turk on Monday, in which the Turkish prime minister, discussing the recent tension in Jerusalem, said Ankara would come to the defense of Muslims around the world.

“We cannot be indifferent to the problems of the Islamic world or Jerusalem,” he said. He added that although Turkey was interested in integrating into the Western world, it has not turned its back on the East. “Arabs and Turks are brothers and we share the same values,” he said.

Turning to Gaza, Erdogan said the situation there was inhumane.

“We cannot watch the murder of children in Gaza with indifference,” he said. “We worry about the Gaza children, but our hearts are also for the children of Haiti and Chile.”

In a related development, the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv confirmed on Monday night that ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol will be replaced in a few months by Kerim Uras, currently the deputy director-general for Middle East affairs at the Turkish Foreign Ministry in Ankara.

Celikkol will be returning to Ankara within a year of coming to Israel, his job made extremely difficult because of the public dressing down he was given in January by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon following a Turkish television series that depicted Mossad agents as child-killers and kidnappers. After that incident, according to diplomatic officials, Celikkol was obviously “not extremely happy here.”

Ayalon later issued a formal apology for the incident, following Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s threat to recall the ambassador.

The Foreign Ministry had no comment on Celikkol’s departure, saying that it was an internal Turkish matter. One official said that considering the circumstances, the move did not come as a surprise.

The move is part of a larger reshuffle in Ankara’s diplomatic appointments that will see about 20 ambassadors change jobs.


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