Turkey PM under fire for Zionism remarks
01 March 2013, 16:28
Ankara - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on
Friday came under withering criticism from Israel, Washington and the UN for
comments branding Zionism a "crime against humanity”.
The storm surrounding the comments is likely to dominate
Friday's visit to Ankara by the new US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is
due to hold talks there on the Syrian crisis.
Erdogan has often attacked Israeli policies in blistering
language over the past several years, sending relations between the once close
allies into a free-fall.
On Wednesday, he told a forum organised by the UN in
Vienna that: "As is the case for Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it is
inevitable that Islamophobia be considered a crime against humanity."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu branded the
comments as "a dark and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought
had passed from the world”.
Israel's main ally Washington said the
"characterisation of Zionism as a crime against humanity... is offensive
"We encourage people of all faiths, cultures, and
ideas to denounce hateful actions and to overcome the differences of our
times," said National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor.
A spokesperson for UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who was present
when Erdogan made the inflamatory remarks at the Fifth Global Forum of the
Alliance of Civilisations, also condemned the statements.
"The secretary-general believes is it is unfortunate
that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under
the theme of responsible leadership," Ban's office said in a statement.
"The secretary-general heard the prime minister’s
speech through an interpreter," it said.
"If the comment about Zionism was interpreted
correctly, then it was not only wrong but contradicts the very principles on
which the Alliance of Civilisations is based.