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Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan Returns Jewish American Award Over Gaza Comments

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on July 22, 2014, ahead of August 10 presidential elections. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images) | ADEM ALTAN via Getty Images

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is returning an award given to him by a Jewish American group in 2004, after the group asked for it back because of comments he made regarding the conflict in Gaza.

Turkey's ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, wrote to Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, on Erdogan's behalf. Kilic said Erdogan would be glad to return the award because of Israel's actions in Gaza and "the regrettable stance adopted by the present leadership of the American Jewish Congress vis-a-vis the recent attacks on the innocent civilians in Gaza."

The letter, dated July 27, was made available Tuesday.

In an open letter to Erdogan last week, Rosen described the Turkish leader as "arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world." He said Erdogan was given the Profile of Courage award in 2004 for working for a peaceful solution in the Middle East and for his commitment to protecting Turkey's Jewish citizens.

Erdogan, who is campaigning to be elected president next month, has spoken out strongly against Israel's operations in Gaza, accusing it of committing genocide.

In his letter, Kilic stressed that Erdogan's "strong determination in fighting against terrorism, preventing all forms of extremism, bringing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through peaceful means as well as ensuring the safety and well-being of the Jewish community in Turkey still remains as strong as ever."

However, he said, the Turkish leader "should not be expected to turn a blind eye to the policies of occupation, blockade and destruction that the Israeli government has been implementing against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza," and said the killing of civilians and the bombing of hospitals and U.N. schools in Gaza "constitute a grave violation of not only the international law, but also the most fundamental human values."

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