Erdogan Blames Israel for Egyptian Coup

INSTANBUL (Reuters) -

Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel Tuesday of having a hand in the Egyptian military’s overthrow of president Mohammed Morsi, making comments likely to further undermine efforts to restore Ankara’s strained ties with Israel.

Erdogan, who has become a fierce critic of the Islamist leader’s removal last month, also said he feared “autocratic regimes” would take root if the West failed to respect election results.

“What do they say in Egypt? Democracy is not the ballot box. What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation,” Erdogan told provincial leaders of his AK Party.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to respond to Erdogan’s allegation. “This is a statement well worth not commenting on,” said spokesman Yigal Palmor.

However, the United States had a strong reaction: “We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

Erdogan did not say what documentation he had, but referred to comments he said an Israeli cabinet minister had made before Egyptian parliamentary elections held after an uprising unseated President Hosni Mubarak.

“Before the 2011 elections, during a session in France, the justice minister and an intellectual from France — he’s Jewish too — they used exactly this comment: ‘Even if the Muslim Brotherhood wins the election, they will not win because democracy is not the ballot box,’” Erdogan said.

At least two AK Party officials have suggested there was Jewish involvement in anti-government protests that rocked Turkey in late May and June.