Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 18:02 pm (KSA) 15:02 pm (GMT)

Turkey slams Western 'double standard' on Gaza

Turkish demonstrators protest Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Ankara
Turkish demonstrators protest Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Ankara

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Western powers had failed to intervene promptly to stop the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, calling their attitude a "double standard."

In a speech in Belgium, aired live on Turkish television, Erdogan recalled the conflict between Georgia and Russia in August, charging that Western powers failed to engage as promptly to stop Israel's devastating offensive in Gaza.

"The attention shown for Georgia was unfortunately not shown for Gaza... The United States did not show it and Western (European) countries did not show it," he said.

"Why is this double standard? Why is this indifference, this insensitivity?" he asked.

 This political party Hamas won an election with nearly 75 percent of the vote. The West, which has shown no respect for this embracing of democracy, is responsible for this situation, 
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan also slammed Israel for describing its 22-day offensive, which claimed at least 1,300 lives, about a third of them children, as a success when it decided to unilaterally halt the operation early Sunday.

"We regret that they say they had accomplished what they wanted," Erdogan said. "Children were killed. Defenseless people were killed. Is this what you have accomplished?"

He was speaking in the Belgian city of Hasselt at a gathering with members of the Turkish immigrant community there. He was to meet with European Union officials in Brussels on Monday.

Predominantly Muslim non-Arab Turkey, a NATO member, has been Israel's main regional ally since the two signed a military cooperation accord in 1996.

But Erdogan, whose ruling Justice and Development Party has its roots in political Islam, regularly lashed out at Israel during the Gaza crisis, putting the blame of the conflict mostly on the Jewish state.

At the same time, Ankara has been active in mediation efforts to convince the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, to agree to a ceasefire.

Erdogan also criticized world leaders for leaving Hamas out of the peace process, saying it was a democratically elected political party.

He also warned that the situation in Gaza could take on a very different dimension if "Western countries" did not show appropriate sensitivity towards Hamas.

"This political party Hamas won an election with nearly 75 percent of the vote. The West, which has shown no respect for this embracing of democracy, is responsible for this situation," Erdogan said.

Thousands rally in Ankara

Up to 30,000 people gathered for an anti-Israeli protest in central Ankara Sunday, waving Palestinian flags and calling for continued "resistance" against the Jewish state in devastated Gaza.

The demonstration, held after Israel unilaterally halted its bloody 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip early Sunday, was organized by pro-Islamic civic groups and trade unions.

"Israel is a murderer", "Salute to Hamas", "Keep up the resistance," the demonstrators chanted, waving Palestinian and Turkish flags.

"Is Gaza being punished for being Muslim?" read one placard. "The world is watching as Palestine resists," read another.

Police officers estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people attended the rally on Sihhiye Square in the heart of the Turkish capital.

Anti-Israeli protests have been staged almost daily in Turkey.

Some pro-Islamic groups have called on the government to sever relations with Israel, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out such a move.

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has claimed at least 1,300 lives, including more than 400 children, and caused massive destruction.

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