Obama rebukes Turkey’s leader on Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama rebuked the Turkish prime minister for belligerent anti-Israel rhetoric, saying it was harming Turkey’s profile.

"In the president’s meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan yesterday, the president told the prime minister that his anti-Israel rhetoric was eroding his nation’s ability to effectively lead on the issue as it had in the past," said a statement relayed Tuesday to JTA by a U.S. official. "The president pressed the prime minister to make rebuilding Turkey’s ties with Israel a priority."

Obama and Tayyip Erdogan met Monday to discuss ties between the two nations. Turkey is seeking to reinforce its ties with the United States as it is increasingly isolated from Europe because of tensions over its candidacy for membership in the European Union and the Islamist tilt of Erdogan’s government.

Erdogan has heightened criticism of Israel more than any other Turkish leader since ties were established in the early 1950s, accusing Israel of war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war, and defending Iran’s nuclear progtam.

In remarks after the meeting, Erdogan said he hoped to resume Turkey’s role as a peace broker in the region; that role has been eroded in part because of tattered Turkey-Israel ties. He also suggested he was more conciliatory about containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

"We have also had opportunity to discuss what we can do jointly in the region with regard to nuclear programs," Erdogan said. "We as Turkey stand ready to do whatever we can to ensure a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue in our region. And we stand ready as Turkey to do whatever we can do with respect to relations between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israel and Syria, because I do believe that, first and foremost, the United States, too, has important responsibility in trying to achieve global peace."

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