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Israel-Turkey tensions high over TV series

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israel summons Turkey's diplomatic envoy to complain about Turkish TV show
  • Episode of "Valley of the Wolves: Ambush" spurred Israeli diplomatic complaint
  • Show portrayed Israeli intelligence agents as being inside Turkey, kidnapping babies
  • Producer says show "will continue to tell the truth and expose the wrongs"

(CNN) -- Tensions between Israel and Turkey spilled into a second day Tuesday when Turkish officials summoned the Israeli ambassador to a meeting, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.

Israel criticized Turkey Monday for a Turkish television series that it said depicted Israeli intelligence agents as baby-snatchers.

When asked about Tuesday's meeting between Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy and Turkish officials, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was pre-planned.

That session came one day after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about the television show that Israel found offensive, a spokesman for Ayalon said.

Afterward, Ayalon tweeted that he had "Told Turk Amb that this is an intolerable situation which endangers the Jewish community, the Israel envoys and tourists coming to Turkey."

Several senior Israeli Foreign Ministry sources, who didn't want to be named because it would jeopardize their jobs, criticized Ayalon's treatment of Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol at the start of their meeting Monday. At the session, Celikkol was seated below Ayalon.

With cameras rolling, Ayalon turned to the television crews and said, "The main thing is that you see that he is seated low and that we are high ... that there is one flag on the table (the Israeli flag) and that we are not smiling."

The sources told CNN they were "surprised by Ayalon's undiplomatic behavior."

Ceylon Ozen, spokeswoman for the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv, told CNN that Celikkol felt his treatment was "unacceptable, shocking and primitive," and did not comply with standards for diplomacy. He has contacted the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and requested a formal apology from the Israelis, she said.

There had been media speculation that Ayalon's summons was designed to sabotage a trip to Ankara Sunday by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. A spokesman for Ayalon said that was "completely wide of the mark."

Barak's office said he had no plans to cancel his trip.

Israeli politicians and media outlets roundly condemned an episode of the popular Turkish soap opera, "Valley of the Wolves: Ambush," that depicted the Israeli intelligence service Mossad spying inside Turkey and kidnapping Turkish babies. The program also showed Mossad attacking the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv and taking the ambassador and his family hostage.

In a written statement, "Valley of the Wolves: Ambush" producer Pana Film said the show "will continue to tell the truth and expose the wrongs."

Israel summoned the Turkish ambassador the same day that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lambasted Israel for air strikes Sunday on Gaza, the Turkish state-run Anatolian News Agency reported.

"Why is it doing this? Because it says 'I possess the power in this region,'" the news agency quoted Erdogan as saying of Israel. "It possesses unproportionate power and it is using this. It is not acting in accordance with U.N. resolutions, it is uncomfortable. It says 'I will do whatever I please.'"

During a joint news conference, held with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Erdogan called for the international community "to warn Israel about its nuclear arsenal just like it did with Iran," ANA reported. Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal, but has never acknowledged that publicly.

In a written statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry condemned the criticism.

"Erdogan's remarks join the anti-Israel program broadcast on Turkish television and the harsh statements against Israel that have been said consistently and systematically for over a year," the statement said.

"The state of Israel reserves the full right to protect its citizens from missile attacks and from the terror of the Hamas and Hezbollah. Turkey is the last that can preach morality to Israel and the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)."

"Valley of the Wolves: Ambush" is part of a popular franchise in Turkey. The series "Valley of the Wolves" first aired in 2003 on Turkish television, followed by a 2006 movie of the same name that stirred controversy with its portrayal of American soldiers in Iraq and what some described as thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. The movie, based on the series, featured American actors Gary Busey and Billy Zane.

Another television version, "Valley of the Wolves: Terror," was canceled after one episode in February 2007. "Ambush" first aired in April 2007.

Israel and Turkey have enjoyed close military and economic ties for more than a decade. But relations have grown testy at times in recent years over Israel's activities in the Palestinian territories and over its Gaza offensive in December and January.

CNN's Kevin Flower and Shira Medding contributed to this report.