Anti-Israel remarks test John Kerry's diplomacy in Turkey
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Turkey to stress points of agreement with the ally. Now, he's putting out fires after the prime minister made comments maligning Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry is no stranger to prickly diplomatic situations – he smoothed ruffled feathers in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years as President Obama’s troubleshooting envoy to those two problematic partners.Skip to next paragraph
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But his skills got a particularly tricky testing in Turkey Friday, where Secretary Kerry arrived for talks two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Zionism a “crime against humanity” as grave as anti-Semitism or Islamophopia.
Instead, Kerry found himself admonishing the Turkish leader for what he said the US considered an “objectionable” comment. Indeed, the White House on Friday issued a statement rejecting Mr. Erdogan’s equation of Zionism with other crimes against humanity as “offensive and wrong.”
Speaking Wednesday at a United Nations conference in Vienna meant to encourage dialogue between the West and Islam, Erdogan said, “It is necessary that we must consider – just like Zionism, or anti-Semitism, or fascism – Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the comments “hurtful” and “divisive.”
Turkey and Israel were once good friends, even holding joint military exercises. US leaders cited Turkey as an example of a Muslim country building a mutually advantageous relationship with the Jewish state. But that ended in 2010, when Israel responded to a flotilla of protesters out to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza by opening fire, killing nine Turks.