UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sat silently on stage as Erdoğan likened Zionism to anti-Semitism, fascism, and Islamophobia. UN Watch urged Ki-moon to condemn the speech and called for Erdoğan to apologize.
Updated March 1: A spokesman for Ban issued a statement critical of Erdoğan, saying "it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership."
Secretary of State John Kerry intends to "be very clear about how dismayed we were" by Erdoğan's comments, an unnamed senior official said in Reuters report.Kerry is in Turkey to discuss Syria's civil war, and the comments about Israel hurt efforts to mend fences between Turkey and Israel and "complicates our ability to do all of the things that we want to do together when we have such a profound disagreement about such an important thing," the official said.
Erdoğan's comments reek of irony in light of the fact that Turkey, under his watch, has witnessed significant state discrimination against the county's Kurdish minority. And Turkey refuses to acknowledge its genocide against Armenians prior to World War I.
Erdoğan's hostility toward the Jewish state has been evident since the 2008 Israeli conflict against terrorists in Gaza. After more than 8,000 rockets fell on Israeli civilian communities, Erdoğan demanded that "Israel must pay a price for its aggression and crimes" in retaliating and trying to eliminate the threat.
Turkey has indicted Israeli officials and called for UN sanctions stemming from the 2010 flotilla which started in Turkey and aimed to break the blockade on the Hamas government in Gaza. An Israeli raid on one ship ended with nine people dead after they attacked Israeli commandos trying to enforce the blockade. Though the UN acknowledged the blockade was a lawful attempt to block weapons from reaching terrorists, Erdoğan expelled Israeli diplomats and suspended military and defense ties with Israel.
He also has denied that Hamas is a terrorist group.
His comments in Vienna came amid references to a resurgence among European fascists.
"We are facing a world in which racist attacks have gained momentum, terrorism has claimed more lives, and religions and sects treat each other with less understanding," he said. "Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity."
They also come as Israel has renewed efforts to revitalize the strained relationship with Turkey.