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Sofa provokes diplomatic row between Israel, Turkey
Tel Aviv, JAN 14 (Agencies):
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Published on 14 Jan. 2010 11:44 PM IST
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Turkey threatened to withdraw its ambassador to Israel after he was humiliated in a televised dressing-down by being made to sit on a small sofa. There is usually a strict etiquette for diplomatic disagreements, and carefully worded reprimands are delivered in private. So Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv, was surprised when he arrived for a meeting with Israel’s deputy foreign minister to be greeted by the country’s assembled press corps. After refusing to shake Mr Celikkol’s hand, Danny Ayalon invited him to sit on a sofa — several inches lower than his own chair — before delivering a rebuke in front of cameras. On Wednesday, the snub escalated into a full-blown diplomatic incident as the Turkish president threatened to recall his ambassador, despite Israeli attempts to defuse the row. The meeting had been called for the Israelis to lodge a complaint about a Turkish television show that portrayed Israeli secret agents as child snatchers. But that row was quickly overshadowed by the perceived humiliation of the ambassador. Footage from Tuesday’s dressing down included Mr Ayalon pointing out to journalists that the ambassador was seated on a low sofa. He was also heard telling reporters that only the Israeli flag was on display. “Unless they make up for it by this evening, our ambassador will return on the first plane tomorrow,” said Abdullah Gul, the Turkish president. Mr Ayalon issued a statement in which he promised to observe the expected niceties in future. “My protest against the attacks on Israel in Turkey remains valid,” he said, referring to the television drama, The Valley of the Wolves. “Nevertheless,” the statement continued, “it is not my way to disrespect ambassadors’ honour and in future I will clarify my position in a diplomatically acceptable manner.” But Turkey rejected the statement and demanded an apology. Relations between the two countries have soured since Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last year, of which Turkey was heavily critical. Last night Israel bowed to Ankara’s ultimatum and issued an apology in the form of a formal letter to Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said Ankara had received the apology it “wanted and expected”. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, rebuked his foreign ministry over their handling of the incident and said in a statement that he hoped the matter was now resolved.

 
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