Cablegate: Turkey Condemns Gaza Attacks
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P 301731Z DEC 08
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TAGS: PREL PBTS PGOV PTER IS TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY CONDEMNS GAZA ATTACKS
REF: ANKARA 2174
GOT OFFICIALS SLAM ISRAEL
1. (U) Turkey has reacted strongly to Israeli attacks in
Gaza. PM Erdogan has called the attacks a "crime against
humanity," a "blow to world peace," and complained they
showed a "lack of respect" for Turkey, which has been
exerting great efforts to restore peace in the region.
President Gul was more balanced, calling the events
"irresponsible," while noting that he had warned visiting
Israeli PM Olmert on December 22 (reftel) that such attacks
would lead to regional instability. FM Babacan also
condemned the attacks, though the Foreign Ministry Statement
echoed President Gul's more balanced tone (see paragraph 7).
Turkey's Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet),
however, added fuel to the fire December 29, calling the
attacks "sordid" and a "shame for humanity." Parliamentary
Israel Friendship Group members, including Chairman Murat
Mercan and Egemen Bagis, who also heads the U.S.-Turkey
Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Caucus, resigned en masse. In
resigning, Nationalist Action Party (MHP) Deputy Mehmet
Sandir said he "would not shake Israel's bloody hand" and
"cannot be a friend of a country killing innocent women and
PUBLIC REACTION EQUALLY INTENSE
2. (U) GOT remarks reflect, but have also contributed to, the
Turkish public's intensely negative reaction to the attacks.
Large protests were held December 28 in Istanbul and Ankara,
where the Israeli Embassy was pelted with snowballs. New
Year's celebrations in Istanbul's Taksim Square have been
canceled in solidarity with Gazans. Leading Turkish human
rights NGOs issues a joint press statement December 29
calling the attacks a violation of humanitarian law and a
crime against humanity, urging peace and questioning why the
attacks were carried out during "lame duck administrations"
in the U.S. and Israel.
MEDIA STOKES ANTI-ISRAEL SENTIMENT
3. (U) The press has further stoked public reaction, with
newspapers across the political spectrum carrying sensational
headlines condemning the Israeli attacks. Liberal "Radikal"
carried the headlines, "Gaza Covered in Corpses," and
"All-out Brutality Against Palestine" in their December 29
and 30 editions, with liberal columnist Cengiz Candar calling
the situation a "bloodbath." Mainstream "Sabah" reported,
"Dead Children Will Not Grow Up," next to photographs of four
young sisters killed in a missile attack. Pro-government,
Islamist "Yeni Safak" carried the headline, "Like Hitler,"
and leftist "Taraf," "This Cannot be the Will of God," as
"Israel violates one of the Ten Commandments: Thou Shall Not
A BLOW TO TURKISH EFFORTS TO MEDIATE PEACE
4. (U) The Gaza attacks are seen here as a setback for
Turkish efforts to mediate Israeli-Syrian peace; Damascus
announced December 28 it would cease all Turkish-mediated
indirect contacts with Israel. "Radikal" columnist Murat
Yetkin and mainstream "Milliyet" columnist Fikret Bila
focused their reporting on PM Erdogan's anger that Israel
launched the attacks only days after Olmert visited Ankara,
where he promised to avoid suffering, while undercutting
Turkish efforts to advance Israeli-Syrian peace, damaging
Turkey's credibility as a mediator, and giving the appearance
of Turkish complicity in the attacks. Yetkin highlighted
that Turkey, unlike Israel, seeks to avoid civilian
casualties in its operations against the terrorist PKK.
Israeli actions, he wrote, trigger allegations that Israel
uses civilian casualties as a tool. "Milliyet" columnist
Semih Idiz offered rare perspective in his reporting,
cautioning that Erdogan, by condemning only Israel and making
no reference in his remarks to Hamas rocket attacks, will
strengthen the position of those who perceive a rising
Islamic trend in Turkey.
ERDOGAN TO TRAVEL TO SYRIA, JORDAN, EGYPT AND SAUDI ARABIA
5. (U) Government spokesman Deputy PM Cemil Cicek announced
December 29 that PM Erdogan would travel to Syria, Jordan,
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Egypt and Saudi Arabia December 31-January 1 to seek regional
support to stop the Israeli attacks and lift the blockade of
Gaza. FM Babacan and Egyptian FM Aboul Gheit, in a news
conference following their talks in Ankara, urged Israel to
halt immediately its offensive, warning that the continuation
of the conflict may spread beyond Gaza. Babacan expressed
his "profound regret and disappointment" in Israel but also
urged Hamas to stop its rocket attacks. He urged the
international community to mobilize to provide humanitarian
assistance to the Palestinians in Gaza -- the issue which PM
Erdogan reportedly told Gheit, in their meeting, was the
highest priority at the moment. Babacan also said all
channels of communication remain open, including with Hamas.
According to press reports, Babacan spoke with Israeli FM
Livni December 29; Erdogan had canceled a December 27
telephone consultation with PM Olmert.
TURKISH HUMANITARIAN AID DISPATCHED TO GAZA
6. (U) In a December 28 interview with mainstream "Aksam,"
Israeli Ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy said Israel would
"keep its promise" to President Gul and PM Erdogan to prevent
a humanitarian catastrophe and has allowed Turkish aid to
enter Gaza. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) has
dispatched ten trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza,
which is expected to reach there in the next four days.
Kizilay Director General Tasli said his organization has been
in continued negotiations with Israeli authorities to deliver
humanitarian aid to Gaza over the past 15 days.
TEXT OF MFA STATEMENT ON GAZA ATTACKS (AS RELEASED)
7. (U) BEGIN TEXT:
28 December 2008
Turkey is undertaking intensive diplomatic initiatives
regarding the recent developments in the Gaza Strip.
In this respect, President Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan conveyed our
concerns and views over the phone to their counterparts in
the countries both in and outside of the region as well as
the Secretary Generals of international organisations.
During his contact with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,
Prime Minister Erdogan stressed the need for an active
involvement by the UN for immediate cessation of the Israeli
military operations and the provision of humanitarian aid to
the people of the Gaza Strip.
Foreign Minister Babacan requested an emergency meeting of
the OIC Foreign Ministers to discuss the developments in the
Gaza Strip on his call to the OIC Secretary General Prof. Dr.
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. Secretary General Ihsanoglu made the
necessary announcement to this effect.
The calls and initiatives will continue today.
Turkey also intensified its humanitarian assistance it has
already been extending to the Gaza Strip where many lives
were lost and hundreds were injured. In this respect, 10
trucks carrying humanitarian aid will depart from Turkey this
morning. Furthermore, 5 of the 15 ambulances donated to
Palestine reached the Erez crossing point between Israel and
the Gaza Strip this morning. Turkey is determined to continue
Our Ministry and Diplomatic Missions in the region are on
alert. We are following the developments closely. We are also
monitoring the conditions of the Turkish citizens living in
the Gaza Strip. Contacts and preparations are being made in
order to facilitate the launching of an evacuation process,
should the circumstances require.
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
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