January 15, 2010

Israel issues apology after Turkey's ultimatum

by Ron Bousso Ron Bousso – Wed Jan 13, 4:20 pm ET
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel on Wednesday issued a second apology to Turkey over its envoy's treatment, bowing to Ankara's ultimatum in a bid to defuse the latest spat over a TV show that marred ties between the two allies.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in response that Ankara had received the apology it "wanted and expected."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon apologised to Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol for giving him an angry dressing down in front of cameras to protest a Turkish television series portraying Mossad agents as baby snatchers.
A statement from Ayalon's office said that "out of respect" for a request by President Shimon Peres, the deputy minister sent the envoy an apology.
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"I wish to express my personal respect for you and the Turkish people and assure you that although we have our differences of opinion on several issues, they should be discussed and solved only through open, reciprocal and respectful diplomatic channels between our two governments.
"I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived," Ayalon wrote in the letter.
Ankara, a key Muslim ally to Israel, was infuriated and demanded "an explanation and apology" after Ayalon on Monday made Celikkol sit on a low couch and had the Turkish flag removed from the table at their meeting.
Ayalon issued a initial apology late on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the "protest to the Turkish ambassador was just in its essence but should have been conveyed in an acceptable diplomatic manner."
But Turkish President Abdullah Gul on Wednesday threatened to recall the ambassador if there was no formal apology.
Following the second, formal apology, Netanyahu hoped the two allies would now put the crisis behind them.

The premier also "expressed his concern over the cooling of the ties between Israel and Turkey" and instructed officials "to find ways to prevent this trend," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.
The Turkish premier, who has repeatedly slammed Israel over its policies towards Palestinians in the wake of last year's devastating war in Gaza, said the response was what "we wanted and expected in diplomatic terms."
A Turkish diplomat told AFP that Celikkol would now not be recalled.
The treatment of the Turkish ambassador, dubbed as "a hazing" by Israeli media, also revealed differences between Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist foreign minister.