ISTANBUL (Hurriyet)–Turkish official sources have denied Israeli press reports that Oguz Celikkol, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, has asked his superiors in Ankara to transfer him to a new posting.
Celikkol was the subject of much attention after being treated with deliberate disrespect by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
The report, which appears to have been leaked by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was met with surprise by both the Turkish Foreign Ministry and Celikkol, Hurriyet said, citing unnamed “reliable sources.”
News hit the Israeli press Tuesday afternoon claming that Çelikkol had expressed a wish to leave Israel following the public humiliation he suffered at the hands of Ayalon, carrying the potential of new tension on bilateral relations that were already strained.
“A senior official at the foreign ministry confirmed Tuesday that Celikkol put in a request with the Turkish Foreign Ministry to leave his current post. Jerusalem believes that the ambassador’s reasons for leaving are personal,” wrote Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. According to the paper, this information was sent by telegram to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem from the Israeli embassy in Ankara.
The same paper also reported that sources at the Israeli foreign ministry predicted that Celikkol would assume a post as ambassador in one of the European countries.
An Israeli journalist working for another media outlet, however, told Hurriyet that the information about Celikkol leaving Israel had come from the Israeli Embassy in Rome. According to this journalist, the Israeli Embassy in Rome had said that the Turkish Ambassador in Rome is leaving and that there are rumors that Celikkol will replace him.
The Turkish Ambassador to Rome is under investigation for sexual harassment and has left the Italian city as initial investigations concluded that the complaints were true. He is not expected to return to Rome.
The Foreign Ministry in Ankara has not yet made public the results of the investigation.
Ayalon, who came under harsh criticism in his own country for having tried to humiliate Celikkol, expressed regret over the Turkish ambassador’s departure but said he hopes it does not compromise the two countries’ relations, Israeli media reported. Ayalon, apparently making his statement without checking the validity of the information, called the issue “an internal Turkish matter.”
The Israeli deputy foreign minister’s premature statement was also met with surprise by Turkish officials.
Ayalon in January issued a formal apology to Celikkol, who earlier in the month was summoned to explain a Turkish broadcast of dramatized abuses of Palestinians by Israeli troops, which caused offense in Israel.
Before the meeting, Ayalon told photographers in Hebrew: “Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair and we are in the higher ones, that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling.”