ANKARA: Turkey's deputy prime minister denied Tuesday he had blamed the Jewish community for the anti-government protests that rocked Turkey last month and shook the ruling party to its core.
"I am upset that the statements I've made about Gezi Park have been deliberately distorted by a (news) agency. An accusation regarding the Jewish lobby or Jews is out of the question," Besir Atalay was quoted as saying by local media.
In remarks carried by the Cihan news agency on Monday, Atalay appeared to link the protests to Turkey's Jewish diaspora and the foreign media.
"There are some circles at home and abroad that are envious of Turkey's growth. They are all uniting: on one side there's the Jewish diaspora. You've also seen the foreign media's attitude regarding Gezi Park," he was quoted as saying.
Atalay said Tuesday his remarks were taken out of context.
"I do not make any statement against Jews.I choose my words very carefully," he said.
Several weeks of unrest sparked by a local ecological campaign to save a small Istanbul park from demolition blossomed into nationwide protests that presented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government with the biggest public challenge since it came to power in 2002.
Erdogan has dismissed protesters as "vandals" and "looters" and branded the turmoil as a plot "hatched by traitors and their foreign accomplices."
Atalay's initial reported comments caused worries among members of the Turkish Jewish community.
"We would like to express our concern that all Jews around the world including Turkish Jews may be a target because of such sort of remarks made in almost every situation," the community said in a statement posted on its website.
The leader of the World Jewish Congress called the comments "despicable."
"It is shocking to hear from a senior Turkish government minister such despicable and totally baseless slurs," Ronald S Lauder said in an emailed statement.
"Mr. Atalay should have the decency to apologise. His remarks are an insult not only to the Jewish people but also to the many Turkish citizens who took part in the protests and who have real grievances."
The recent wave of anti-government protests has mainly involved young, middle class and well-educated activists who took to streets across the country to express discontent with Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian after a decade in power.
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