Turkey tells Israel’s Istanbul consul to leave in escalating row

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Istanbul: Turkey has told the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to leave the country temporarily, state media said today, the latest of a series of tit-for-tat expulsions in a growing crisis over Israel’s deadly firing on Palestinians on the Gaza border.

The Turkish foreign ministry has told the consul to leave Turkey “for a period of time”, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Turkey had already withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and told the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to leave, while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave for an unspecified period of time.

The row, which on Tuesday saw President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu exchange bitter jibes on Twitter, threatens a 2016 deal on normalising ties after a long-running crisis.

Turkey has expressed outrage over the killing by Israeli forces on Monday of 60 Palestinians on the Gaza border and also blamed tensions on the US decision to move its embassy for Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Erdogan will on Friday host an emergency summit meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul which he has said will send a “strong message to the world” on the issue.

The 2016 reconciliation deal ended a dispute over the May 2010 deadly storming of a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos that saw relations downgraded.

That deal was strongly backed by the United States, which was keen to see Israel make up with one of its very few key Muslim partners.

But Erdogan, who regards himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, has never shied away from criticism of Israel even as ministers pressed energy cooperation between the two sides.

Erdogan this week has accused Israel of “genocide” and told Netanyahu he is leading an “apartheid state” while having the “blood of Palestinians” on his hands.

Netanyahu meanwhile told Erdogan that as a leading supporter of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas “there’s no doubt he’s an expert on terror and slaughter”.

In a tweet titled “Reminder to Netanyahu”, Erdogan then denied that Hamas is a terror group, saying it is a “resistance movement that defends the Palestinian homeland against an occupying power”.

After talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday, Erdogan warned that history “will not forgive” Israel or the United States for moving the American embassy to Jerusalem in defiance of the Islamic world.

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