Gül, speaking on a Sunday talk show in the United States, said Hamas leaders had visited Turkey after their 2006 election victory in Gaza and were told in Ankara to “act democratically” and stop the “nonsense” of firing rockets into Israel. Gül, who was the foreign minister when the Hamas visit took place, said Turkey told Hamas leaders that they should tell European and US officials that they were ready to live side by side with Israel when the Palestinians are able to establish their own state.
“Thus we helped Israel a lot,” he said on the CNN show “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”
The show separately hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres, who urged Turkey to talk to Hamas and Iran to end hostile actions against Israel. “Tell Hamas to stop shooting,” Peres said. “Tell Iran to stop sending missiles. Tell [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad not to threaten to destroy Israel or deny the Holocaust,” Peres said.
Relations between Turkey and Israel began to deteriorate after Israeli forces killed about 1,400 Palestinians in a three-week offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2009-2010. Israel says the operation was a response to rockets fired by militants from Gaza. Tension in the ties reached a peak when Israeli commandos killed nine activists -- eight Turks and one Turkish-American -- during a raid on an aid flotilla trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Turkey demands an apology for the attack, while Israel refuses, saying its commandos acted in self-defense.
Peres and Gül remained at odds over the May 31 raid, although both said there was no enmity between the two countries. Peres said in the show that Israel “will seek friendship with Turkey,” and Gül, for his part, said Turkey was not an enemy of Israel.
A reported meeting between Gül and Peres in New York fell through amid Peres’ charges that Gül demanded an apology for the raid as a precondition. Gül said the meeting did not take place because of his busy schedule. He said during the show that reports that Turkey demanded an apology from Peres as a condition of their meeting were exaggerated.
He said on Sunday: “They are defending their act and they are criticizing us as if we [did] something wrong. With this understanding, how can I meet? We do not prefer this deterioration in [our] relationship, but, unfortunately, it was a great mistake on the Israeli side because of this blockage, embargo on Gaza.” Gül stated that Turkey is “not against Israel” and that the two countries are not enemies, but added, “We have a right to criticize their policies.”
The president also said it was up to Israel to mend ties. Peres said: “But we didn’t change our attitude to Turkey. We were friends of Turkey, we shall seek friendship with Turkey.”