The new Turkish ambassador to Israel, Kemal Okem, said that Turkey and Israel agree that there is need for concern with regards to Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East and its potential to be nuclear armed. However, he said that the two countries have differing views regarding strategy.
He said to the Jerusalem Post that Turkey, very concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, believes that containment - rather than isolation - is the only way to deal with Iran. He said that the shared border is a factor in this.
“We have had a common border for hundreds of years which remains unchanged. They see us as a strategic competitor ... We saw the need for engaging and containing their ambitions.”
Speaking about Syria, he said that there has been progress, albeit minimal, as Iran has now assumed part responsibility. When asked about Russia and the Syrian situation, he said (to the Israelis present): “Good luck, you have a new neighbour.”
Mr Okem said that Turkey plays a large role in the international fight against ISIS and extremism that is spreading rapidly. He said the threat is not limited to the Middle East – it is spreading throughout Europe. He said that everyone should be fighting the battle, including Muslims and Jews.
“Terrorism is a global phenomenon - it is always there and it won’t go away without a global fight.”
He also reassured that Turkey was not shifting away from the West, saying “there are some misperceptions about Turkey’s role and policies and this should be corrected”.
On the subject of Gaza, Oken said that Turkey was supporting the people of the area, excluding Hamas. He explained: “We do not accept the linear analogy that is trying to be established that everyone living in Gaza belongs to Hamas and is a terrorist. We do not accept this. We have to distinguish between people who are suffering and people who happen to be members of Hamas as a political party.”
It is important for Turkey, he said, that it is providing financial assistance to Palestinians in the West