Turkey downgrades ties with Israel

Related: The Mavi Marmara Massacre

Ankara expels Israeli diplomat and suspends military co-operation ahead of release of UN report into 2010 flotilla raid.
02 Sep 2011 10:14
Israel has refused Ankara’s demands for an apology for the raid aboard the Mavi Marmara [Reuters]

Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and suspended military co-operation between the countries in anticipation of the release of a United Nations report into Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound ship.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, announced the measures on Friday hours before Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, was expected to formally receive the report.

“Israel, in fact, has misused many of the chances that were given to them and the Israeli government, on the other hand, see themselves [as being] above international laws and human conscience,” Davutoglu said in prefacing the four actions his government is taking.

Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and lowered diplomatic relations with Israel to second secretary level, recalling all envoys – including the ambassador – above that grade back to Ankara, he said.

All military agreements “have been suspended as of now”, Davutoglu said, and Turkey will now see any measures necessary for the pertaining of freedom in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Turkey does not recognise Israel’s blockade on Gaza as legal and will take this matter to the International Court of Justice, the minister concluded.

The measures came after the leaking of a report on a UN-mandated investigation by Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister of New Zealand, into the May 31, 2010 incident in which eight Turkish nationals and an American man of Turkish descent died when Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish-flagged ship known as the Mavi Marmara.

The crew said the ship was delivering aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

The report’s release was delayed three times, to allow for ultimately fruitless rapprochement talks between Israel and Turkey, whose relations were badly affected by the incident on May 31 last year.

Earlier on Friday Al Jazeera obtained a draft of the report on conclusions of  UN investigation which said Israel’s action was “excessive and unreasonable”. The New York Times had first published a draft of the report on Thursday.

“Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable,” it said.

It said, however, that the six-vessel flotilla “acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade” set up by Israel around Gaza.

The draft also said Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is “legitimate”, complying with “the requirements of international law”.

The inquiry called for Israel to make “an appropriate statement of regret” for the raid and pay compensation to the families of the dead as well as to injured victims.

Turkey and Israel should resume full diplomatic relations “repairing their relationship in the interests of stability in the Middle East,” the report says.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, said the inquiry into the flotilla aid bound for Gaza was “unjust” and lacked balance.

Turkey has demanded an apology from Israel for the raid, but Binyamin Netanyahu’s government has refused several times to make such a gesture.

In addition to an apology, Turkey also demands compensation for the victims’ families and an end to Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, imposed since 2007.


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