Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that he was “saddened” by Washington’s reaction to comments he made earlier this week regarding Israel’s ostensible involvement in the military takeover in Egypt.
Washington, he said, should not have addressed remarks that were clearly not aimed toward it — but rather, at Jerusalem.
On Tuesday, Erdogan alleged that Israel was behind the early July military coup in Egypt, which saw the democratically elected Islamist president Mohammad Morsi removed from power, and said that Turkey had the evidence to prove it.
Speaking at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party, Erdogan said that his government could prove Israel’s involvement, and cited as purported evidence a statement made during a 2011 panel with Jewish intellectual Bernard Henri Levy and then-opposition leader Tzipi Livni in France, according to a Hurriyet Daily News report.
Erdogan cited Levy as saying at the time that “the Muslim Brotherhood will not be in power even if they win the elections. Because democracy is not the ballot box.”
“Now the West starts to say democracy is not the ballot box or not only the box, but we know that the ballot box is the people’s will,” Erdogan said. “This is what has been implemented in Egypt. Who is behind this? Israel. We have evidence,” the Turkish prime minister added.
The White House was quick to criticize Erdogan’s statement.
“We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a briefing to reporters.
On Saturday, Erdogan said the US should not have responded to his comments, adding Washington’s reactions had “saddened” him, as the remarks were aimed at Israel and not at the US.
“When I said that, an answer came from the White House. I was saddened. Because the interlocutor [of the comments] was not the White House. I did not mean the United States, but Israel,” Erdogan told the crowd during a ceremony in his hometown Rize.
“What is it to the White House that it should respond? It should not have mentioned it, it should not had reacted like this. As two members of NATO, that one ally shows this kind of approach to the other is not appropriate,” Erdogan said.
Asked to comment about Erdogan’s statement, an Israeli government official responded with one word: “Nonsense.”
The Egyptian interim government rejected Erdogan’s statement as “baseless,” irrational and “very bewildering,” saying its patience was running thin with Turkey, one of the biggest critics of the July 3 military coup. “Its purpose is to strike at the unity of Egyptians,” the government said in a statement.
An aide of Erdogan said that as far as he knew, the video footage of Livni and Levy was the only ostensible evidence to the claim. The official spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Turkey had backed Morsi and has strongly condemned his removal from power by the Egyptian military and the subsequent bloodshed and civil strife. Last week, Istanbul recalled its ambassador to Egypt in protest, and Egypt’s interim government followed suit by recalling the Egyptian ambassador to Turkey, effectively cutting off diplomatic relations between the two countries.