Turkey’s embassy in the US says Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be “glad” to give back an award given to him by an American Jewish group 10 years ago.
In 2004, the Turkish premier received Profile of Courage award from the New York-based American Jewish Congress for his efforts to seek peace in the Middle East. However, last week, the association asked for the decoration to be handed back after Erdogan repeatedly criticized Israel for its offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Erdogan has denounced Israel’s raids on Gaza as a “genocide” of the Palestinian people and likened Tel Aviv’s actions to those of Hitler, saying Israel is “surpassing Hitler in barbarism” with its war on Gaza.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic said in a Tuesday letter to the president of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen, that attempts to represent Erdogan’s “legitimate criticisms” of Israel’s attacks on the people of Gaza “as expressions of anti-Semitism are an obvious distortion.”
“Prime Minister Erdogan would be glad to return the award given back in 2004,” Kilic added, saying he had been instructed by the premier to pass on these remarks.
He further described attacks on Erdogan as “an effort to cover up the historic wrongdoings” of Israel.
Erdogan, whose office released a copy of the ambassador’s letter, said on July 24 that Turkey would push for Israel to be tried at an international criminal court if it continues its deadly aggression against the Gaza Strip.
Israel has been carrying out military strikes against Gazans since July 8. More than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed in the attacks so far.
Relations between Israel and Turkey soured after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010 while it was in international waters. Ten Turks died in the assault.