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Israel and Turkey ramp up tension with tit-for-tat diplomat dismissals

Israel and Turkey ramp up tension with tit-for-tat diplomat dismissals
Israel and Turkey ramp up tension with tit-for-tat diplomat dismissals. Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa
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Turkey has ordered the Israeli consul general in Istanbul, Yosef Lefi-Sfari, to temporarily leave the country, in the latest development of an ongoing spat between the two countries, Turkish state media reported Wednesday.

The move comes after Israel's Foreign Ministry summoned a top Turkish diplomat to be reprimanded for his country's "harsh" treatment of Israel's ambassador in Ankara, Eitan Naeh, who Turkey temporarily expelled on Tuesday.

Read more: Opinion: An anniversary, an embassy, and the destructive power of Donald Trump

Also on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Umut Deniz, the Turkish charge d'affaires in Tel Aviv, was being summoned because of the "inappropriate treatment" of Naeh.

The spat between the two countries has seen Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan exchange heated words on Twitter.

Erdogan tweeted that Netanyahu "has the blood of Palestinians on his hands."

Netanyahu hit back on Twitter, saying "Erdogan is among Hamas's biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us."

Arab foreign ministers to hold talks

Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting at the Arab League on Thursday to "confront the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people," state media reported Tuesday.

At least 60 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since protests amplified on Monday following the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the Nakba commemoration of Israel's founding.

Read more: 70 years of Nakba: The ongoing struggle of Palestinian refugees

Egypt's state news agency MENA quoted an Arab diplomatic source as saying the meeting was also "to confront the illegal decision taken by the United States to move its embassy to occupied Jerusalem."

The source also said the Arab League was due to hold a preparatory meeting on Wednesday at the level of permanent representatives.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia released a brief statement of condemnation and reaffirmed its support for "the Palestinian brotherly people" and their "legitimate rights."

Guatemala first to follow US

Despite condemnation from much of the world on the US embassy decision, Guatemala also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Wednesday, making it the first country to follow in the footsteps of the US.

"This is an important moment for the future of our peoples," Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales said at the embassy inauguration ceremony.

"It is not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first, you were always among the first. You were the second country to recognize Israel," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Paraguay is next in line to move its embassy to Jerusalem later this month.

Early this month while visiting Venezuela, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for Latin American countries not to move their embassies to Jerusalem, saying East Jerusalem was "the capital of the Palestinian state."

Palestinian envoy in US recalled

On Tuesday the Palestinian envoy to Washington was recalled to Ramallah in protest over the US relocating its embassy to Jerusalem.

Chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Husam Zomlot, the Palestine Liberation Organization's chief representative in Washington, was already on his way home.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said President Mahmoud Abbas had instructed Zomlot to return to Ramallah.

"When they [the US] opened their embassy in Jerusalem there was a need for a decision from our side and this was our decision," Malki said.

law/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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