September 2, 2011 (Al Jazeera)
September 2, 2011 (Al Jazeera)
Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and suspended military co-operation between the countries ahead of the anticipated official release of a United Nations report into Israel’s deadly 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, details of which have already been leaked to the media.
There was no official Israeli comment on the matter.
Turkey has long demanded an Israeli apology over the May 31, 2010, incident aboard the Mavi Marmara in which eight Turkish nationals and an American man of Turkish descent died when the vessel was stormed by Israeli commandos.
The Israeli government has refused several times to make such a gesture.
“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 as he announced the measures.
Turkey had 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, Davutoglu said.
All military agreements had been suspended, Davutoglu said, and Turkey would bolster its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Our aim here is not to hurt our friendship but to return this friendship to its right track,” Davutoglu said.
Turkey did not recognise Israel’s blockade on Gaza as legal and would take the matter to the International Court of Justice, he concluded.
The Palmer report
The release of the UN-mandated inquiry into the Mavi Marmara incident, headed by Geoffrey Palmer, a former prime minister of New Zealand, has already been delayed three times, to allow for fruitless rapprochement talks between Israel and Turkey.
A draft of the report obtained by Al Jazeera on Friday stated that Israel’s action was “excessi “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 aid 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 was “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.
The Israelis have been holding their line that they are not going to comment on this until the report is actually released, Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry reported from Jerusalem.
While Turkey’s downgrading measures are a definite blow to Israel’s foreign relations, Perry said the report recognised the legitimacy of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
“I think the one positive they can take away from this is that the report declared the Gaza blockade legal,” our correspondent said.
“The draft of the report said the Israelis did not act in any illegal fashion, although it said they were overly aggressive when they assaulted the ship.”
It is unclear whether Turkey’s actions will prompt Israel to issue an apology, but it might to something similar to its recent expression of “regret” to Cairo over a near-border incident that killed five Egyptian security officers, Perry said.
“I think we can expect to hear something that tries to tread sort of along the middle line.”
ve and unreasonable”.