By Mehmet Nedim Aslan
Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has made his strongest criticism yet of Israel and its policies. After talks with his British counterpart David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, the two ministers held a joint press conference during which Mr Davutoğlu answered questions about his country's lukewarm relations with Israel. Asked whether Turkey's criticism of Israel was attributed to a policy of "Islamisation", Mr. Davutoğlu denied the existence of any such policy and said that Turkey had worked actively for regional peace; indeed, until 2008 Turkey had had very good relations with Israel, even to the point of bringing it to the same table with Syria. The war in Gaza a year ago changed this, said Mr. Davutoğlu. "By attacking Palestinians in Gaza, Israel ruined our peace efforts and we cannot tolerate this. Attacking children and women is unacceptable," he added.
Davutoğlu emphasised that his country's relations would not be normalised as long as Israel is occupying and attacking Palestine. "If Israel ends its occupation and unacceptable treatment of Palestinians, then we will be ready the next day for normalised and good relations," he said. "Turkey's foreign policy is based on equality both with its neighbouring countries and others. A Jewish kid is not superior to a Palestinian kid. Both should be treated as equal. This is our vision for the region."
Later, Mr. Davutoğlu gave a speech at London University's King's College on the topic "Converging Interests of Turkey and the UK in an enlarged EU and beyond". Answering questions from the audience afterwards the Foreign Minister was asked why Turkey has close relations with "extremists such as Iran and HAMAS". Emphasising again his country's commitment to regional and global peace, Mr. Davutoğlu pointed out that HAMAS had been elected by the popular vote and those in the West who lecture the rest of the world on democracy should respect the Palestinians' choice. He added, "The Palestinian election was the most democratic and transparent election held in the region and the Palestinians elected HAMAS. There is no such thing as 'moderates and extremists'. When you occupy a land and kill its people you leave them no choice but hopelessness. One cannot call a country moderate which kills Palestinian children and women every day."
Mr. Davutoğlu also criticised the US former President George Bush's Middle East policy that labelled Iran and Syria members of the 'axis of evil'. "We don't want a Cold War in our region. We don't believe that the use of military force and a policy of isolating countries will bring peace. The only way to bring peace to the region and the world is to be inclusive, not exclusive, and this is what Turkey has been working on. That's why Turkey has good relations both with HAMAS and Iran. Anything that happens on our doorstep affects us, so our vision is to minimise tension and bring countries together politically, socially and economically."
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.