Kerry to Express Dismay at Erdogan's Statement on Zionism at Meeting With Turkish PM, U.S. Official Says

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Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's reported comment equating Zionism with crimes against humanity is "particularly offensive" and has a "corrosive effect" on U.S.-Turkish relations, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

Speaking aboard Kerry's plane as he flew from Rome to Ankara on Friday, the official said the Obama administration was profoundly concerned by and disappointed by the Turkish prime minister's remark at a UN conference in Vienna.

The White House on Thursday issued a statement condemning them. Outrage over the remarks threatens to overshadow Kerry's visit to NATO ally Turkey on his first official overseas trip as secretary of state. He has spent much of his time at the first three stops focusing on the conflict in Syria.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed on Friday his disagreement Erdogan's comments. Erdogan comments came on Wednesday during a session of the Fifth Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations held by the UN in Vienna. The initiative, which was co-sponsored by Turkey, was intended to promote cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. 

Ban was sitting onstage several meters away from Erdogan listening to the speech through simultaneous translation when the Turkish leader made his comments. The UN secretary-general's announcement on Friday, delivered by his spokesperson, emphasized that if Erdogan's words had been accurately translated Ban strongly disagreed with them.

"If the comment about Zionism was interpreted correctly, then it was not only wrong but contradicts the very principles on which the Alliance of Civilizations is based," said the statement.

Ban's statement also expressed that he believed "it is unfortunate that such hurtful and divisive comments were uttered at a meeting being held under the theme of responsible leadership."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out strongly against Erdogan's comments Thursday. "I strongly condemn the comparison that the Turkish prime minister drew between Zionism and fascism," Netanyahu said. "I had thought that such dark and libelous comments were a thing of the past."

The anger among Israel supporters stems from the 1975 UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 that stated that Zionism was a form of racism. In 1991, the UN General Assembly revoked the resolution. Many officials in Israel and Israel supporters abroad believe that the fact that the UN secretary general didn't immediately criticize Erdogan's remarks provided some renewed legitimacy to the longer extant UN Resolution.

Erdogan at a UN conference in Vienna on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013.Credit: Reuters
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. Credit: AP

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