Israeli Deputy FM issues second apology in Turkey row

Israeli Deputy FM issues second apology in Turkey row

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon sent a letter of apology Wednesday night to the Turkish ambassador to Israel, after he had subjected him to "humiliating" treatment during a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday, HaAretz reported.

The letter of apology was issued at the culmination of day-long consultations between Ankara and Jerusalem, made after the Turks announced that Ayalon's first apology was insufficient, and Jerusalem vowed no second apology would be made.

In the letter, Ayalon writes that the disagreements between Turkey and Israel should be sorted out through the proper channels, and that there was no intention to offend the ambassador, and that Israel apologized if anyone was offended.

Ayalon had issued an apology on Tuesday night, but Ankara had threatened to recall Ahmet Oguz Celikkol if no second, formal apology was made. According to Turkish media reports, this step had been taken, with Celikkol set to return Thursday morning after Israel said no such apology was on the table.

"This is the final decision on the matter," said a senior Foreign Ministry official earlier Wednesday, referring to a second apology. The decision was made during consultations between the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, officials said.

Summoned Monday by Ayalon over an anti-Israeli television show aired in Turkey, Celikkol was made to sit in a chair lower than that of the deputy foreign minister, while the Turkish flag was deliberately not on display during the meeting.

At the beginning of his Monday meeting with Celikkol, Ayalon told cameramen in Hebrew: "Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair ... that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling."

Israel had passed to the highest levels of the Turkish Foreign Ministry a copy of Ayalon's initial apology, which was published in the media on Wednesday morning.

Shortly before midnight Tuesday, Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Gabriel Levy, called senior officials in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and read to them the text of the apology from Ayalon. Levy stressed to the Turkish officials that this was a formal message from the government of Israel.

Ayalon issued the special statement of apology Tuesday night for his treatment of Celikkol on Monday. But Turkey on Wednesday threatened to recall the ambassador if the row over his treatment by Ayalon was not resolved to its satisfaction by Wednesday night.

"My protest of the attacks against Israel in Turkey still stands," Ayalon said. "However, it is not my way to insult foreign ambassadors and in the future I will clarify my position by more acceptable diplomatic means."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday said Israel doesn't want a confrontation with Turkey, but that it won't tolerate anti-Semitic remarks and incitement against Jews.

Lieberman said Israel respects Turkey and its people, and expects the same in return.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with Ayalon's apology. He said that the deputy foreign minister's protest was justified, but that he should have used acceptable diplomatic means to express his outrage.

The deliberate insult enraged Turkey and deepened the rift that has emerged over the past year between the Jewish state and its closest friend in the Muslim world.

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