Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Turkey threatens diplomatic action over Israel 'snub'

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon meeting Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, captioned "the height of humiliation" in Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom [Image: Lior Mizrahi/Israel Hayom]
One newspaper captioned the picture "the height of humiliation" [Image: Lior Mizrahi/Israel Hayom]

Turkey has said it will recall its ambassador unless a row over his treatment by Israel's deputy foreign minister is rapidly resolved.

The dispute comes after the deputy minister, Danny Ayalon, summoned the ambassador, Oguz Celikkolits, to rebuke him over a TV series.

He then ensured the ambassador was seated on a lower chair and removed the Turkish flag from the table.

In an attempt to defuse the row, Mr Ayalon said disrespect "is not my way".

He said in future he would behave "in a diplomatically acceptable manner".

But Turkey has demanded a formal apology from Israel.

"Unless they make up for it by this evening, our ambassador will return on the first plane tomorrow," President Abdullah Gul was quoted as saying by the NTV news channel.

'Repeated provocation'

Footage of Mr Ayalon urging journalists to make clear the ambassador was seated on a low sofa, while the Israeli officials were in much higher chairs, has been widely broadcast by the Israeli media.

He is also heard pointing out in Hebrew that "there is only one flag" and "we are not smiling". In an interview with Israel's Army Radio on Tuesday, Mr Ayalon was unapologetic.

Jonathan Head
Jonathan Head, BBC News, Istanbul

What began as a diplomatic stunt now has the potential to escalate into a serious breach between Israel and Turkey.

Clear splits have emerged within Israel's coalition government over how to handle the Turkish government, which has become an increasingly strident critic of Israel at the same time as it has moved closer to Iran and Syria.

It is less clear what Turkey's long-term aims are with Israel, for decades a close military and trading partner, but the governing party has said it no longer sees its relationship with Israel as a priority.

"In terms of the diplomatic tactics available, this was the minimum that was warranted given the repeated provocation by political and other players in Turkey," he said, according to Reuters.

One Israeli newspaper marked the height difference on the photo, and captioned it "the height of humiliation".

The meeting with Mr Celikkol had been called to discuss the fictional television series Valley of the Wolves, popular in Turkey.

It depicts Israeli intelligence operatives kidnapping babies and converting them to Judaism.

Last October Israel complained over another Turkish series, which depicted Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians. In one clip, an Israeli soldier shoots dead a smiling young girl at close range.

The row comes ahead of a planned visit by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to Turkey on Sunday.

Turkey has long been an ally of Israel, but relations have deteriorated as Ankara has repeatedly criticised Israel for its offensive in Gaza a year ago.

Rights groups say about 1,400 Palestinians died during the operation, which Israel said had been aimed at ending rocket fire by Hamas.

Thirteen Israelis died during the violence.

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