ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be glad to return an award given to him by a Jewish-American association a decade ago, a letter released by his office showed yesterday, and it called on the US group to condemn the Israeli government’s policies.
The New York-based American Jewish Congress said in a letter to Erdogan last week that he had become the world’s “most virulent anti-Israeli leader” and it demanded that he return an award it had given him partly for his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Prime Minister Erdogan will be glad to return the award given back in 2004,” Turkey’s ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic said in the letter addressed to American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen.
Erdogan’s office released a copy of the letter to the media, describing it as Turkey’s official response.
“The absence of this award will not prevent Prime Minister Erdogan from resolutely fighting against terrorism, working towards the peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and upholding the safety and well-being of the Jewish community in Turkey,” the letter continued.
Rosen’s open letter to Erdogan had cited the Turkish leader’s recent comments that Israel had “surpassed Hitler in barbarism” through its attacks on Gaza.
Anti-Israeli sentiment runs high in Turkey, and Erdogan’s rhetoric plays well with his base of largely conservative Sunni Muslim voters, who he hopes will hand him victory in Turkey’s first direct election of a president next month. There is widespread anger in Turkey at Israel’s offensive in Gaza.