Turkey threatens diplomatic break with Israel over raid

Turkey has for the first time threatened to
break diplomatic ties with Israel over its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in
May.

Turkey’s foreign minister said a break
could only be averted if Israel either apologised or accepted the outcome of an
international inquiry into the raid.

The Israeli government said it had nothing
to apologise for.

Ankara curtailed diplomatic relations with
Israel after the naval raid, in which nine Turks were killed.

Turkey – which until recently was Israel’s
most important Muslim ally – withdrew its ambassador and demanded that the
Israelis issue an apology, agree to a United Nations inquiry and compensate the
victims’ families.

A Turkish foreign ministry official told
the BBC relations with Israel had hit rock bottom, but Ankara would not rush
into cutting ties.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said
Turkey would be satisfied with the ongoing Israeli inquiry if that found Israel
to be at fault.

Mr. Davutoglu told Hurriyet newspaper:
“[The Israelis] will either apologise or acknowledge an international,
impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be
cut off.”

He also said there was now a blanket ban in
place on all Israeli military aircraft using Turkish airspace, not just on a
case-by-case basis.

It comes just five days after a surprise
meeting between Mr. Davutoglu and Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer
in Switzerland.

Reacting to the Turkish stance, Israeli
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: “We don’t have any intention to
apologise.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor
told AFP news agency: “When you want want an apology, you don’t use threats or
ultimatums.”

Israel says its commandos acted in
self-defence after being attacked by activists wielding clubs and knives as the
troops boarded one of the aid convoy ships.

Activists on board the Mavi Marmara say
lethal force was used from the start of the raid by Israeli forces.

The vessel was part of a flotilla trying to
break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Amid mounting international pressure
following the raid, Israel last month announced it would ease its four-year
blockade of the territory.

Blockade blacklist

 On
Monday, Israel published a revamped blacklist of items barred from entry into
the Gaza Strip.

Long-standing restrictions on allowing
consumer goods into Gaza have been dropped, but Israel is retaining tight
limits on badly needed construction materials.

The Islamist group Hamas, which controls
Gaza, has dismissed the concessions, saying they are of no use to the
Palestinians living there.

Has Israel lost lone Muslim ally?

Israel says its blockade is needed to
prevent the supply of weapons to Hamas.

Turkey and Israel forged strong military
and trade ties following Ankara’s recognition of Israel in 1949.

But relations have cooled in recent years.
The Turkish government headed by the AK Party – which has Islamist roots –
strongly criticised the raid launched by Israel in Gaza in December 2008.

In January 2009, Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan stormed out of the World Economic Forum in Davos, after a
clash with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In January this year, Israel was forced to
apologise over the way its deputy foreign minister treated the Turkish
ambassador.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Photo: File
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