Israel’s deputy FM sorry for berating Turkish envoy


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s deputy foreign minister officially apologized to Turkey over a public reprimand of its ambassador.

Daniel Ayalon apologized Wednesday evening for calling in Ahmet Oguz Celikkol on Monday evening and embarrassing him in front of television cameras in the wake of the Turkish prime minister’s weekend verbal attack on Israel and a new anti-Israel Turkish television drama.

"Although we have our differences of opinion on several issues, they should be discussed and solved only through open, reciprocal and respectful diplomatic channels between our two governments," read Ayalon’s letter, which was given to the Turkish ambassador to send to Ankara.

"I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived. Please convey this to the Turkish people for whom we have great respect."

The ambassador was made to sit on a lower chair than Ayalon and the table between them only displayed an Israeli flag. Ayalon did not shake Celikkol’s hand.

 A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that "the prime minister coordinated the letter of apology with the foreign minister and hopes this brings the affair to an end. The prime minister’s stand throughout the incident was consistent — he backed the protest but had reservations over the way it was done.

"The prime minister once again expressed his concern over the fact that Turkey and Israel are moving apart and has instructed professional elements to prevent the conflict from going on," the letter concluded.

Ayalon had issued a defiant apology earlier Wednesday without using the word apology.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul told Al Jazeera in highly publicized remarks Wednesday that he would recall his ambassador if Israel does not issue a formal apology.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called on Turkey to deal directly with Israel.

"We have always respected and appreciated Turkey and the Turkish people. That is why we expect reciprocity in the attitude towards us," Lieberman said. "We expect Israel to be treated with respect and appreciation. We shall not tolerate anti-Semitic remarks or Jewish libels.

"I propose to the Turkish government to resume the normal state of relations, and to sort out any reservations and disagreements directly and not through public statements and press conferences. That is the best way."

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained since last winter’s military operation in Gaza.

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