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

A rallyist holds a Palestinian flag on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on Tuesday, May 15, during a protest against the killing of 59 Palestinians who clashed with Israeli police at the Gaza border. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2018
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Turkey tells Israel’s Istanbul consul to leave in escalating row

ISTANBUL: Turkey has told the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to leave the country temporarily, state media said Wednesday, 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Turkey had already withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and told the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to leave, while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave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 normalizing 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 Organization 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 US, 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 on Tuesday, 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.


Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.