ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan angered Ankara’s U.S. ally, as well as regional leaders in Egypt and Israel, by accusing Israel on Tuesday of helping overthrow Cairo’s Islamist president.
The White House called the remarks “offensive”.
Erdogan, who has become one of the fiercest critics of the Egyptian army’s removal of Mohamed Mursi, told members of his Islamist-rooted AK Party that he had proof that Israel was involved in last month’s ouster, which has been followed by a bloody crackdown on the elected president’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“What do they say in Egypt? Democracy is not the ballot box. What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation,” Erdogan said in comments broadcast by TRT state television.
An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called that “nonsense”. Egypt’s new, military-installed government said no one “sane or fair” could accept Erdogan’s allegation.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated and wrong.”
Erdogan’s AK party traces its roots to an Islamist movement banned at a time when Turkey’s military held great influence and has positioned itself as a model for conservative, democratic politicians in the Middle East moving away from dictatorship.
Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, and a souring of once warm Turkish ties with Israel, had seemed to give Ankara a growing regional influence. The change of rule in Egypt may hinder that, while outspoken defence of Egypt’s Islamists could affect Turkey’s relations with the West.
Turkey, which has a secular constitution, has the second-biggest armed forces in NATO and is a long-standing candidate for European Union membership.