Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador Over UN Report

Posted September 2nd, 2011 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador to Ankara on Friday and suspended all military agreements after details emerged of a United Nations report into last year's deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday his government is reducing its diplomatic presence in Israel to the level of second secretary. The decision comes a day after The New York Times leaked the long-awaited U.N. report online.

According to the posted version, a U.N. panel concluded that Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal, but that the Israeli government used “excessive and unreasonable” force in stopping the Turkish ship attempting to break the blockade.

The report criticized the loss of life resulting from the Israeli raid as “unacceptable.” It said Israel has not provided a “satisfactory explanation” for the killings of the nine Turks, most of whom it says were “shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range.”

However, the panel also found that the Israeli commandos who boarded the Turkish ship used force to protect themselves in response to what it called “significant, organized and violent resistance” from some of the passengers.

Israeli officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity pending the report's release, praised it for reportedly finding that Israel's actions did not violate international law. But one Israeli official speaking to the French news agency said they also would voice “specific reservations” about the findings.

The ship, called the Mavi Marmara, was the largest of six vessels in a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Palestinians. The panel said the flotilla organizers “acted recklessly” by trying to breach the Israeli blockade. It also accused Israel of “significant mistreatment” of flotilla passengers after Israeli forces commandeered the vessels Mediterranean waters off the Israeli coast.

The report's lead authors are former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. The four-member panel also included representatives of the Israeli and Turkish governments.

A U.N. deputy spokesman said Thursday he expected the report to be officially released in the “next few days.” The world body had no immediate comment on the leak.

The report was completed in July but U.N. officials repeatedly have delayed its release to give Israel and Turkey an opportunity to resolve their dispute about the Mavi Marmara incident, which has severely strained relations between the one-time allies.

Turkey has long demanded an Israeli apology for the raid, compensation for the families of those who died, and a scrapping of the blockade. Israel refuses to apologize but has not ruled out expressing regret and offering compensation.