Iranian leader uses Turkey visit to slam Israel

By Sami Kohen, August 26, 2008

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seized the opportunity of visiting Istanbul to launch fierce attacks on Israel.

His visit caused diplomatic tensions between Israel and Turkey, which enjoy close relations.

‘"The deep-rooted reason for all the aggressions, oppression and bloodshed in the region is the Zionist regime,'' he said at a press conference as he ended his two-day working visit to Istanbul last week during which he had extensive talks with Turkish leaders on bilateral relations and Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Referring to Israel as the "Zionist regime", he argued that there could not be peace in the Muslim world as long as it continued to exist and claimed that the Zionists' ambition was to dominate the whole region, covering all countries from Turkey to the Sudan.

Mr Ahmadinejad made similar remarks in interviews with Turkish television channels, offering what he called "the best solution'' to settle the problems of the Middle East.

"Let a referendum be held in Palestine so that the people will decide their own fate,'' he said. "In that case the Zionist regime will crumble and its people will have to withdraw.''

Asked about Turkey's efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria on their conflict over the Golan Heights, Mr Ahmadinejad said the "Zionist regime" must leave all the territories.

Mr Ahmedinejad's views on the Arab-Israeli conflict differed sharply with the policies of Turkey, which not only maintains good ties with Israel but has also tried to mediate between Israel and other Arab countries.
However, the Israeli-Arab conflict was not high on the agenda in Istanbul. Talks centered on bilateral relations and a Turkish initiative to ease the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme. Little progress was reported in this field.

Israel expressed strong disappointment to Turkey through its Ambassador in Ankara, Gaby Levy, and Turkey's Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Namik Tan, over the invitation it had extended to Ahmadinejad to visit this Nato country.

Israel recalled the Iranian leader's previous call for the Jewish state's destruction and his Shoah denial.

There was no official reaction in Ankara to the Israeli protest, but the Turkish press reported that there was embarrassment in Turkish official quarters due to the systematic anti-Israel attacks by Ahmadinejad in all his public statements in Istanbul.

Last updated: 11:04am, August 26 2008