May 22, 2024

AFP, ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he was breaking off contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu due to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.

Erdogan’s remarks came a week after Israel said it was “re-evaluating” its relations with Ankara because of Turkiye’s increasingly heated rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel had earlier withdrawn all diplomats from Turkiye and other regional countries as a security precaution.

Israeli forces have encircled Gaza’s largest city, trying to crush Hamas in retaliation for October 7 raids into Israel that officials say killed around 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took some 240 people hostage.

The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,400 Gazans, mostly women and children, have since been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign.

Erdogan said Saturday that Turkiye was not breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel.

“Completely severing ties is not possible, especially in international diplomacy,” Erdogan said.

He said MIT intelligence agency chief Ibrahim Kalin was spearheading Turkiye’s efforts to try and mediate an end to the war.

“Ibrahim Kalin talking to the Israeli side. Of course, he is also negotiating with Palestine and Hamas,” Erdogan said.

But he said Netanyahu bore the primary responsibility for the violence and had “lost the support of his own citizens”.

“What he needs to do is take a step back and stop this,” Erdogan said.

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