Erdogan’s incendiary Hamas remarks a ‘real concern’ for NATO allies

Robert Courts says ‘centrality of NATO is utterly essential’

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inflammatory remarks in support of Hamas are “a real concern” to his NATO allies, the newly appointed chairman of Parliament’s defence committee has said.

Robert Courts also urged the Turkish President to remember his commitments at a time when both Russia and China were ready to exploit any “cracks” in the alliance.

Witney MP Mr Courts takes over the key role from predecessor Tobias Ellwood at a time when issues relating to defence are very much at the front of the agenda, with war raging in Ukraine and Israel launching a ground offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ terror attack on October 7.

During an incendiary speech during a pro-Palestine rally at the weekend, Mr Erdogan accused Israel of “openly committing war crimes for 22 days” and warned that his country “may suddenly knock on your door one night”, in what was interpreted by many as a threat.

His remark was greeted with jubilation by large numbers who attended the event, with many chanting: “Turkish military to Gaza”.

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While emphasising that his committee did not have a specific position on the matter, Mr Courts told “The centrality of NATO is utterly essential. NATO is right at the centre of our entire defence posture.

“Presenting a united front when we’re facing the epoch-defining challenges that we have, particularly of Russia and of China, is absolutely critical.

“And any any crack in that that facade is going to cause real concern from defence perspective.”

Asked whether Mr Erdogan needed to put his responsibilities to NATO first, Mr Courts continued: “NATO is a military and diplomatic alliance, and it underpins the entirety of the West.

“Whatever the domestic position that member states must have, we have to ensure that we don’t undermine what is the most successful military alliance in history.

“And so I would always ask all NATO partners to ensure that they are at all time supporting NATO.”

Speaking at the rally in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan declared: “Israel has been openly committing war crimes for 22 days, but the Western leaders cannot even call on Israel for a ceasefire, let alone react to it.

“I reiterate that Hamas is not a terrorist organisation. Israel was very offended by this.

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“Israel is an occupier, Erdogan speaks clearly because Turkey does not owe you anything.”

Claiming Israel was trying to “eradicate” Palestinians, he added: “From now on, we will continue on our path with the motto that we may suddenly knock on your door one night.”

His comments prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen to post on X (formerly Twitter): “Given the grave statements coming from Turkey, I have ordered the return of diplomatic representatives there in order to conduct a re-evaluation of the relations between Israel and Turkey.”

Israeli Prime Minister Mr Netanyahu later hit back, saying: “Don’t accuse us of war crimes.

“If you think that you can accuse our soldiers of war crimes that is hypocrisy.

“We are the most moral army in the world.”

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952, and is a key strategic partner, especially given its control of access to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus Strait.

It remains the only Muslim-majority nation within the alliance.

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