WASHINGTON (JTA) — The four co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to “tone down” his inflammatory rhetoric on Israel.
“Your remarks, already reviled as ‘offensive and wrong’ by the U.S. State Department, make it increasingly difficult to communicate in a positive way about Turkey when interacting with our colleagues,” reads the letter sent July 29 by the co-chairs.
The letter was private, but was shared with JTA on Tuesday by the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), one of the co-chairs, after Erdogan spoke of it in speeches in Turkey.
The letter referred to Erdogan’s claim that Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip in the latest conflict with Hamas “surpass” what Hitler did to the Jews.
Such comments “do nothing to end violence but rather could serve to instigate further hatred,” the letter said.
Speaking at an Istanbul rally on Sunday, Erdogan mentioned the letter and said, “They think they are threatening me. They will receive the same kind of answer,” according to Zaman, a Turkish daily.
It was not clear from the Zaman article what Erdogan was referring to, but the Turkish leader recently complied with a request from the American Jewish Congress to return a 2004 award from the organization.
Cohen is of Turkish-Jewish ancestry. The other co-chairs are Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.).