Top Dutch MP slams Turkey's 'belligerence' against Israel
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Middle East expert Kortenoeven accuses Turkey of "sliding into an abyss of Islamic extremism," criticizes foreign policies at OSCE meeting.
BERLIN - Wim Kortenoeven, a prominent Dutch MP and Middle East expert, blasted Turkey's government for its jingoistic policies toward Cyprus and Israel on Sunday at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Kortenoeven's sharp criticisms of Turkey's foreign policies and repression of press freedoms elicited an irritated response from Turkey's representative at the OSCE session on security in the Mediterranean area.
According to a transcript and audio tape of Kortenoeven's remarks, he stated: "Turkey, a member state of NATO, is also increasingly belligerent towards the Jewish State of Israel. Threats and baseless accusations are issued against Israel ever more frequently. And provocations are rampant. Israeli freighters are harassed by Turkish warships."
The OSCE is comprised of 56 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America and is designed to prevent global conflicts and function as an early warning system for military confrontations.
Kortenoeven, a member of the Dutch Party for Freedom who has written extensively on the Middle East, continued: "Turkey also objects to Israel's legitimate desire to drill fornatural gas in its own exclusive economic zone. Turkish warships are backing up threats against Israel's sovereignty. A simple mistake in this combustible situation might spark a military confrontation. Also troubling and dangerous is Turkey's sympathy for the Hamas terror organization and Turkey's attempts to undermine Israel's legitimate right to supervise the maritime routes to Gaza."
The Dutch MP added that "Turkey is sliding into the abyss of Islamic extremism and authoritarianism. This is visible on the inside and on the outside."
To buttress his contention, Kortenoeven noted that freedom of speech in Turkey is increasingly suppressed and that many journalists have been jailed for speaking out.
"The Turkish cartoonist Bahadir Baruter is to be tried for renouncing Allah in a cartoon. He might get a year in jail for that," he said.
Addressing the tense Cyprus-Turkish relations, Kortenoeven told the OSCE parliamentarians that Cyprus, a member State of the European Union, has been partly occupied by Turkey since the brutal invasion of 1974.
"And now the Erdogan regime is turning Turkey into a predator state that apparently also wants to seize the oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Reserves that it does not own.Threats are being issued in the direction of Cyprus. Strong Turkish military forces have been deployed on and near Cyprus," he cautioned.
"The situation is extremely dangerous... This irresponsible Turkish policy of threats, insults and provocations, this macho belligerency needs to be urgently addressed. As it is a clear and present danger to peace and security in the Mediterranean and even beyond. Therefore, I urge you to add this Turkish threat to peace and security to the agenda of the Winter session of the OSCE."
Speaking via telephone from the OSCE event in Dubrovnik with the Post, Neil Simon, director of communications OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, played the audio sections of the exchanges between the Turkish and Dutch representatives.
The video of the session is expected to be posted on the OSCE website on Tuesday.
Simon said that the Israeli delegation did not reply to the Turkish delegation's criticisms of Israel¹s seizure of the Turkish Flotilla¹s attempt last year to break Israel¹s naval blockade of Gaza, which the recently released UN Palmer report declared a legal maritime blockade.
The US delegation declined to issue a comment on the row between the Dutch member and Turkish delegation.
Emin Onen, the head of Turkish delegation to the OSCE parliamentary assembly, said that relations between Turkey and Cyprus are "very fragile," adding that there is a "constructive way of speaking." He appeared to suggest that Kortenoeven "talked against peace." Onen, who is a member of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK), said there was "no weapon in the flotilla" and "nine persons died in the flotilla." He went on to state that deceased passengers were "shot in the head and most in their back," adding that the deaths were "not self-defense but an execution" from the Israeli side.
The Israeli government has said in statements that its naval commandos justifiably responded to violent attacks from the Turkish passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara ship. Turkey's shrill attacks on Israel have prompted recent criticism from German and American political representatives.
Israel's Ambassador to Austria, Aviv Shir-On, spoke on behalf of the Israel delegation to the OSCE event, but did not address Onen¹s remarks singling out Israel.
Shir-On, a veteran diplomat, said "we are in Israel watching closely the developments [in the region]. No one would be happier than us if the area would become more democratic. [It would be a] gain for the Arab governments if they become more democratic." Shir-On added that in his "33 years of diplomatic service, it is not easy" within the framework of the OSCE to be an active part of the process, but that he sees positive cooperation between the parliamentarians of the OSCE.
France and the UK, however, took a hard line against Israel at the meeting, including a report that England's Tony Lloyd, the head of the British delegation to the OSCE, slammed Israel for the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza. Lloyd is a member of the British Labor Party.
Yochanan Visser, an expert on Dutch-Israeli relations who made aliya from the Netherlands in 2000, and is head of the organization Missing Peace told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, that "The way the OSCE conference reacted to Kortenoeven's speech shows, once again, the ignorance in Europe when it comes to dangerous developments in the Middle East. Kortenoeven is the only Middle-East expert in the Dutch parliament and has written two outstanding books on the Arab-Israeli conflict. By ridiculing his speech the members of the OSCE and especially his colleagues in the Dutch delegation demonstrated that they either do not understand [the current developments in] the Middle East, or that they choose to ignore these developments for their own political reasons. The applause for the Turkish delegation after it accused Israel of war crimes tells us a lot about the hostility towards Israel among European politicians."
Visser added that "The abandonment of Turkey's 'zero problem' policy and the endorsement of the Islamist agenda is clear from Erdogan's meddling in Lebanese and Syrian affairs, his hostility towards Israel and the Kurds and the establishment of close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood branches all over the region."
Turkey's government states that it maintains a foreign policy of "zero problems toward neighbors."