Ayalon apologizes following Turkish deadline
President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu demand Foreign Ministry issue clear apology following public humiliation of Turkish ambassador. Turkish PM Erdogan says his country received 'the expected, desired answer.' Seventeen MKs send letter of apology of their own to Turkish envoy
The Foreign Ministry has said it has no plans to apologize for the public humiliation of Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol beyond the clarifications already provided, but senior state officials said Wednesday evening that the ministry had sent Ankara an official Israeli apology, following a request made by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Turkish media reported Wednesday evening that Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol may be recalled by Ankara, following Turkish President Abdullah Gul's demand that Israel issue an official apology for Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon's treatment of the envoy.
Ayalon wrote in the letter, "Although we have our differences of opinion on several issues, they should be discussed and solved only through open, reciprocal and respectful diplomatic channels between our two governments.
"I had no intention to humiliate you personally and apologize for the way the demarche was handled and perceived. Please convey this to the Turkish people for whom we have great respect."
The letter was handed to the Turkish ambassador in Israel, who sent it to Ankara.
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Turkish Foreign Ministry had received "the expected, desired answer".
But he added more criticism of Israel, telling a news conference: "Israel must put itself in order and it must be more just and more on the side of peace in the region."
The Prime Minister's Office confirmed that Ayalon had sent a letter of apology to Turkey following the humiliation of its ambassador.
The PM's Office said in a statement that "the prime minister coordinated the letter of apology with the foreign minister and hopes this brings the affair to an end. The prime minister's stand throughout the incident was consistent – he backed the protest but had reservations over the way it was done.
"The prime minister once again expressed his concern over the fact that Turkey and Israel are moving apart and has instructed professional elements to prevent the conflict from going on."
Ayalon's office said later Wednesday that "now, following President Peres' appeal and with respect to his request, a letter has been sent from the deputy foreign minister to the Turkish ambassador to Israel."
The deputy foreign minister addressed the Knesset on Wednesday evening and said that "Israel will eventually benefit, and I believe that the relations between Israel and Turkey will also benefit" from the diplomatic incident.
Ayalon humiliates Turkish ambassador (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The deputy minister was asked by Knesset Member Carmel Shama (Likud), "Was everything that happened preplanned?" Ayalon responded, "I think we should leave an element of surprise for our rivals and enemies… Let's leave it, let them decide."
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima) asked Ayalon whether there would be another Israeli response following the Turks' demand for an apology. He replied, "We will respond when and where we choose to."
Meanwhile Wednesday, 17 Knesset members signed a letter sent to the Turkish ambassador, in which they expressed their regret over "the inappropriate behavior of Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon."
They added that "even the most difficult arguments must be held in a civilized and dignified manner, and not with actions aimed at harming the person or the state's honor." The letter was initiated by MK Robert Tibayev (Kadima).
The Anatolia news agency reported that Gul had told reporters he expected an apology from the senior Israeli leadership. "The ambassador will return and then we'll discuss what should be done," he noted, adding that he would also consider lowering the Turkish representation level in Israel.
"We will ask the Israelis why they are isolating themselves from the region and the world. They must fix their ways," the Turkish president said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier during a press conference with his Cypriot counterpart, "We had close and positive relations with Turkey for years.
"We have always respected and appreciated Turkey and the Turkish people. That is why we expect reciprocity in the attitude towards us. We expect Israel to be treated with respect and appreciation. We shall not tolerate anti-Semitic remarks or Jewish libels."
Daniel Edelson and Reuters contributed to this report