Turkey lashes out at Israel

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister accused Israel on Monday of threatening peace in the region and using disproportionate force against Palestinians.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Israel to stop violating Lebanon’s airspace and territorial waters. He also called on the U.N. Security Council to put same pressure on Israel regarding nuclear arms as it does on Iran.

“We can never remain silent in the face of Israel’s attitude. … It has disproportionate power and it is using that at will while refusing to abide by U.N. resolutions. We can never accept this picture,” Erdogan said. “These steps threaten global peace.”

He spoke a joint news conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Hariri described Israel as an enemy that threatens Lebanon’s security.

“Today, Israel continues its violation of our airspace and waters,” Hariri said.

Erdogan promised to support Lebanon’s case against Israel at the United Nations. Turkey is a temporary member of the Security Council.

Discussing the possibility of war to make Iran drop its nuclear program, Erdogan said, “The region cannot accept a new Iraq syndrome.” Turkey has long defended Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful use.

“Those who are warning Iran over nuclear weapons are not making the same warnings to Israel,” Erdogan said. “Five permanent members of the Security Council must be just. Israel has not denied the existence of its nuclear arsenal; on the contrary it has admitted it.”

Erdogan also criticized Israel for an airstrike in Gaza on Sunday.

“What is your excuse this time?” he asked.

On Sunday, three members of the militant group Islamic Jihad were killed in an Israeli strike.

Cross-border exchanges have escalated in recent days. The Israeli military said there have been 15 rocket attacks from Gaza this month, compared to eight in December. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Erdogan accused Israel of using of white phosphorus shells in its offensive in Gaza last year. “No one can claim that phosphorus shells are not weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Turkey’s ties with Israel have been strained by Erdogan’s frequent criticism of the Jewish state’s use of force against Palestinians, as well as during the 2006 war against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

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Associated Press Writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.