Erdogan slams Israel, calls for integration with Arab World
Israel's disproportionate use of force against civilians, along with Turkey's firm will to integrate with Arab countries despite allegations of a foreign policy "axis shift," were the two main themes of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's messages during his two-day official visit to Lebanon. Yesterday, the second day of his visit, accompanied by a full delegation including several Cabinet ministers, Erdogan received a leadership award from the Beirut-based Union of Arab Banks (UAB). Speaking on Wednesday in the Lebanese Turkmen village of Kwashra, alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Erdogan criticized Israel's use of violence, saying, "The Israeli government must see from now on that regional peace would benefit both itself and the region. If there is war and conflict in the region, both the region's people and Israel's citizens will be harmed. Thus, we invite the Israeli government to offer an apology and turn towards peace." Speaking at a joint press conference, Erdogan reiterated Turkey's support for a stable Lebanese government, adding that he would hold talks with Lebanese opposition groups during his visit. Erdogan also said the two countries had signed an agreement to set up a free trade zone.