Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, has made a formal apology to Ankara over his ‘discourteous’ conduct during a meeting with Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv in a row over a Turkish TV series.
"It is not my way to disrespect ambassadors’ honor and in the future I will clarify my position in a diplomatically acceptable manner," Ayalon said in the statement.
"Nevertheless, my protest against the attacks on Israel in Turkey remains valid," the statement continued.
The Israeli official was referring to the criticism directed by Turkish leaders at Israel over its policy toward the Palestinians and to the Turkish drama The Valley of the Wolves, which depicts Israeli security forces as kidnapping children and shooting old men.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday expressed satisfaction with Ayalon’s apology. He said that the deputy foreign minister’s protest was justified, but that he should have used acceptable diplomatic means to express his outrage.
Summoned by Ayalon on Monday, Turkish Ambassador to Tel Aviv Ahmet Oguz Celikkol was made to sit in a chair lower than that of the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister and confronted by three Israeli officials in higher chairs, in order to ram home the displeasure with Ankara. The Turkish flag was deliberately not on display during the meeting. Celikkol was also spoken to in Hebrew and was refused a handshake.
The Israeli apology came after President Abdullah Gul had threatened to withdraw the Turkish ambassador from Tel Aviv if Israel’s apology did not come by Wednesday evening.
Israel and Turkey have enjoyed close economic and military ties for the last decade but many Turks are dismayed at Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the Turkish government has come under increasing pressure to take a stand on the issue.
Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip strained relations with its main regional ally, Turkey. Turkish leaders condemned the Israeli crimes committed against Gazans.
Tensions flared between Ankara and Tel Aviv again in October after Turkey banned Israel from participating in a NATO air force drill. Ankara further strained relations last month when it refused to discontinue the broadcast of The Valley of the Wolves.