» 09/02/2011 TURKEY – ISRAEL Turkey imposes sanctions against Israel in the wake of UN report on the Gaza flotilla Israel’s ambassador is expelled and diplomatic relations are downgraded to the secretary level. Ankara cancels defence agreements and will provide aid to the families of the people killed in the Israeli raid against the Mavi Marmara. Turkey continues to demand Israel’s apology and compensation for the families of those killed.
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Turkey has decided to downgrade diplomatic ties with Israel after the release of a UN report on Israel’s attempt to stop a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, from breaking the Gaza maritime blockade. Dissatisfied by the report, Turkey continues to demand Israel apologise. In the meantime, it has imposed a number of sanctions.
Speaking to the press, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he ordered the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Turkey, and the reduction of Turkey’s diplomatic representation in Israel to the secretary level. He also cancelled all remaining defence agreements with Israel, and ordered an international legal action against the Gaza blockade as well as the distribution of aid to the families of those who died in last year’s incident (see “Israel attacks ship carrying aid to Gaza. At least 10 dead,” in AsiaNews, 31 May 2010).
On 31 May 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, a ship that had left Istanbul carrying pro-Palestinian activists trying to force the Gaza blockade to bring medicine to the territory. The Israeli attack, in international waters, left nine Turkish activists dead. Turkey immediately called for a UN investigation, and demanded an apology from Israel.
The UN report, scheduled for release in February, should be made public today, but the New York Times released a copy yesterday.
Prepared by a panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, the report is a difficult balancing act.
Whilst defending the naval blockade of Gaza (even in international waters), it criticises Israel for the excessive use of force by its commandos. Equally, it criticised Turkey for not doing enough to stop the ship from leaving port as well as the activists for acting “recklessly”. It slammed Israeli soldiers for their abusive treatment of activists and described the loss of life as “unacceptable”.
The Turkish member of the panel Ozdem Sanberk disputed some of the report’s conclusions, especially the view that the blockade was legal and that activists’ behaviour was also blameworthy.
Israeli panellist Joseph Ciechanover for his part rejected criticism of Israeli soldiers arguing that they acted in self-defence.
So far, Israel has issued no immediate formal comment, but one senior Israeli official expressed some satisfaction. "The bottom line is that the Israeli actions were legal," he told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Since the dispute arose, the United States has tried to mediate between Israel and Turkey, given the latter’s importance as a member of NATO and a US ally in the Mediterranean.