U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he found “objectionable” the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's branding of Zionism as a crime against humanity.
“We not only disagree with it, but we find it objectionable,” Kerry said at a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. “I raised the speech with the foreign minister and I will raise it with the prime minister.”
Turkey’s prime minister labeled Zionism as a “crime against humanity” and compared it to fascism, were sharply condemned by his Israeli counterpart on Thursday as “dark and false.”
The Turkish premier’s statement, made at a U.N. meeting in Vienna a day earlier to promote dialogue between faiths, was also condemned by the head of Europe’s main rabbinical group who called it a “hateful attack” on Jews.
“Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become impossible not to see Islamophobia as a crime against humanity,” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said at the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations forum, according to Turkish media reports.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the remark late Thursday calling it a “dark and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought had passed from the world.”
Erdogan’s comments are viewed as a possible hit of efforts to repair ties between the two former allies.
Ties between Israel and mainly the Muslim Turkey have been frosty since 2010, when nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos who stormed their ship carrying aid to Palestinians in Gaza, under a naval blockade.
In recent weeks, there has been a run of reports in the Turkish and Israeli press about efforts to repair relations, including a senior diplomatic meeting earlier this month in Rome and military equipment transfers.
The reports have not been confirmed by either government. No one was immediately available from Turkey’s foreign ministry to comment on the new criticism from the rabbis or from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A statement from the Israeli premier’s office said he “strongly condemns (Erdogan's) statement about Zionism and its comparison to Nazism.”
The Zionist movement was the main force behind the establishment of the state of Israel.
Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and the head of the Conference of European Rabbis, said Erdogan’s criticism of Zionism amounted to anti-Semitism.
“This is an ignorant and hateful attack on the Jewish people and against a movement with peace at its core, which relegates Prime Minster Erdogan to the level of (Iranian President)Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, to Soviet leaders who used anti-Zionism as a euphemism for anti-Semitism,” Goldschmidt said in an emailed statement.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday joined the U.S. and Israel in rejecting Erdogan’s statements.
The statement said Ban “believes it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership.”