Turkey PM accuses Israel of 'state terrorism' over Gaza

Fulya Ozerkan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliament in Ankara, on July 15, 2014
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliament in Ankara, on July 15, 2014 (AFP Photo/Adem Altan)

Ankara (AFP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday stepped up his rhetoric against Israel over its deadly air offensive on Gaza, accusing the Jewish state of committing "state terrorism" against the Palestinians.

Presenting himself as the sole world leader speaking up for the Palestinians, Erdogan said any normalisation in the troubled ties between Israel and Ankara was out of the question.

"Israel is continuing to carry out state terrorism in the region. Nobody, except us, tells it to stop," Erdogan told members of his ruling party in parliament, accusing Israel of perpetrating a "massacre" of Palestinians.

"To what extent will the world remain silent to this state terrorism?"

Supporters from his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) often interrupted his address by shouting slogans like: "Murderer Israel!".

Erdogan also lashed out at Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party who posted controversial remarks on social media suggesting the Palestinians deserved to die.

"What's the difference between this mentality and that of Hitler?" Erdogan said.

His comments came after a week of the deadliest violence in the Gaza Strip for years which has claimed at least 192 Palestinian lives, sparking international condemnation.

Israel resumed its air campaign on Tuesday after it accepted an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire but the US backed truce was rejected by the Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza.

- 'Normalisation out of question' -

Turkey had also stepped up diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire, although its poor current relations with Israel would make it an improbable mediators.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke separately by telephone Tuesday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal to discuss the ceasefire process, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Abbas is due to meet Erdogan in Turkey on Friday but Turkish officials refuse to confirm if Meshaal would visit.

No contacts have been made with Israel so far, a Turkish official told AFP.

"Concrete steps can only be taken after Israel stops its assault on Gaza," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ties between Israel and Turkey hit a low after Israeli marines stormed a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010 while in international waters. Ten Turks have died since the attack.

Encouraged by the United States, there had been progress toward a normalisation of ties between the former allies. But Erdogan said relations will remain frosty as long as Israel continues its Gaza offensive.

"The Israeli state must know that it is out of the question to normalise our relations if those massacres continue," he said.

Erdogan sees himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause and is also keen to underline his credentials as a global Muslim leader ahead of an August 10 presidential election in which he is standing.

Until the rise to power of Erdogan's AKP, NATO member Turkey was seen as Israel's key ally in the Islamic world and Middle East.