Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his remarks on Zionism should not be misinterpreted by anyone, adding that his comments were directed at Israeli policies in Gaza.
In an interview with the Danish Politiken daily, Erdoğan said he stands behind his remarks against Zionism, claiming that his intent was to criticize Israel's policies of expansion in the occupied territories.
“I know that my remarks created controversy, but no one should misunderstand my statements. Everyone knows that my criticism targeted certain critical issues, particularly Israeli policies in Gaza,” Erdoğan said in what is his first response to criticism by the US, Israel and the European Union following his earlier remarks. The prime minister added that he will continue to make such criticisms until Israel recognizes the state of Palestine.
"On the other hand, we recognized and still recognize Israel as a state within the 1967 boundaries. It should not be forgotten that we have hosted in our country a number of Israeli presidents and prime ministers as part of our peace efforts," Erdoğan was quoted as telling the Danish daily by the Anatolia news agency.
"Turkey, like it did in the past, supports all international and regional efforts for a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the perspective of a two-state solution. My several speeches openly condemning anti-Semitism demonstrate my stance. In this regard, I stand behind my speech in Vienna."
During the UN Alliance of Civilizations conference in Vienna late in February, Erdoğan complained of prejudice against Muslims and said Islamophobia should be considered a crime against humanity “just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism.”
Erdoğan's statement received a barrage of criticism from the White House, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Israel after a video recording of the speech was released by a Geneva-based nongovernmental organization, UN Watch.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, whose recent visit to Turkey came in the midst of the controversy, also reacted to Erdoğan's remarks, saying the US does not share the same point of view. “We not only disagree with it, we found it objectionable,” Kerry added.
Kerry stressed the “urgent need to promote a spirit of tolerance, and that includes all of the public statements made by all leaders.”