Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Israel and Syria on Wednesday, calling the former a nuclear threat and threatening the latter with unilateral sanctions, despite the failure of the U.N. Security Council to adopt a stance against its southern neighbor. Erdoğan’s statements came on the same day Turkey’s military forces conducted a cross-border operation into Iraq and defended its move to deploy early warning radar system against Iranian nuclear capabilities.
“Right now, I see Israel as a threat for its region because it has an atomic bomb,” Erdoğan said in a foreign policy speech during an official visit to South Africa. The prime minister also accused Israel of committing “state terrorism.”
Erdoğan’s remarks came in response to comments from an Israeli Embassy diplomat in South Africa who blamed the radical Islamic organization Hamas for launching rockets into Israeli territory and criticized Turkey for downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel.
“Your question opened my way for a reply. One cannot transfer atomic bombs and phosphorus bombs through tunnels [linking Egypt to Gaza],” Erdoğan said.
“Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed by bombs that have rained down on them from Israel.” Erdoğan continued his criticism: “You sleep at night peacefully and secure,” he told the diplomat to applause by South African foreign affairs officials and members of the diplomatic corps. “Yet Palestinians can’t find a single trace of peace in Palestine.”
New sanctions on the way
Erdoğan also accused Israel of attacking the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as well as U.N. buildings in Gaza with phosphorus bombs. Erdoğan also repeated that Turkey would impose sanctions on Syria, making it clear that the U.N. Security Council could not block Turkey’s move. “It won’t stop our sanctions,” Erdoğan said. “Turkey and either some or all of the EU nations, and who knows which others, will take steps. “The people of that country do not need to endure a merciless, shameless, tyrannical regime that bombs its own country from the sea,” he said. Also on Wednesday, the Turkish military began a week-long military exercise near its border with Syria. Erdoğan is expected to announce new sanctions on Syria later this week when he visits refugee camps near the border.
In Ankara, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu criticized the international community for not being united on the Syria case. “We wish the U.N. Security Council could all vote in the same direction. What is taking place in Syria is not a domestic issue. It has become a tragedy for humanity,” he said.