JNN 03 Sept 2011 – Turkey says it is expelling Israel’s ambassador and downgrading diplomatic relations with the country over its refusal to apologize for last year’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Turkey’s president has warned the move could be followed by further measures.
Turkey has expelled Israel’s ambassador to Istanbul and said it is suspending all military agreements with the country. The move comes after a UN report on the deaths of nine Turks in the Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla failed to trigger an apology from Israel.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister, said, “Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations have been reduced to a second-secretary level. All personnel above the second secretary level will return to their countries by Wednesday at the latest. All military agreements between Turkey and Israel have been suspended.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul says his country will treat the UN report as if it doesn’t exist. The long-awaited UN report stated that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip was legal, but that the Jewish state used unreasonable force. Gul says his country will take further steps if needed.
Abdullah Gul, Turkish President,said, “The measures being taken now are the first stage. Depending on the course of events and Israel’s behavior, there could be other measures later on.”
On the Israeli side, government officials say they have accepted the UN report on the flotilla raid, and urged Turkey to respect international maritime laws.
Israel says it hopes to mend ties with Turkey, saying it regrets the loss of life.
But it has also reiterated that it will not apologize for the flotilla deaths, and it will not end the blockade of two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.