US President Barack Obama implored his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Ergodan to thwart anti-Semitism when the two world leaders met in Wales on Friday, the White House said.
The two leaders were attending a NATO summit centered on Russian-Ukrainian tensions and the rise of the Islamic State group, and discussed together various points of cooperation between their nations. Obama took time to address the perceived levels of growing anti-Semitism in the Turkish republic.
“The President and President Erdogan [discussed] the importance of building tolerant and inclusive societies and combating the scourge of anti-Semitism,” said a White House statement about the one and a half hour meeting of the two leaders.
Erdogan was heavily criticized this summer for a spate of remarks he made about the Jewish state, claiming that “[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”
Although Erdogan has called on his countrymen to not carry out attacks on the country’s approximately 20,000 Jews, a Jewish couple was murdered in August in what was believed to be a hate crime, amid reports of rampant anti-Semitism.
American officials have regularly denounced Erdogan’s fiery rhetoric against Israel and have insisted that his remarks harm Ankara’s international standing.
Turkey and Israel were once strong allies. However diplomatic relations dramatically cooled after the 2009 Gaza conflict (known as Operation Cast Lead) and the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident. Erdogan has routinely cited the incident as a crutch between the two states and frequently criticizes Jerusalem for its dealings with the Palestinians.
Relations were once again on the mend recently, but this progress was halted by July and August’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. During the conflict the Turkish president threatened to cancel the normalization of ties between the two countries. However, he did publicly meet with an Israeli official last month for the first time in six years.