Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Israel as a “terrorist state” during a speech on the Gaza conflict, harsh remarks signaling a new low between the former allies.
“Those who speak of Muslims and terror side by side are turning a blind eye when Muslims are massacred en masse,” the prime minister told a gathering of the Eurasian Islamic Council.
“For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts,” he said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Ties between Israel and Turkey have been deteriorating for a number of years under the leadership of Turkey’s Islamist AKP party.
Erdogan has been a vocal critic of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and strongly backs Palestinian statehood, especially following the 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident, in which Israeli commandos killed nine activists—including eight Turks and one Turkish-American, who violently attacked the commandos as they bordered the ship, Mavi Marmara, headed for Gaza.
Later, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military cooperation after Israel refused to apologize following a United Nations report that largely exonerated Israel. More recently, a Turkish court has begun a trial of four high-ranking Israeli officers in absentia for their involvement in the flotilla incident.
Erdogan’s harsh comments come amid pressure from the U.S. for Turkey and Egypt to do more to broker a ceasefire.
Speaking to reporters while in Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama said he has told Egyptian and Turkish leaders that “those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future,” the Associated Press reported.