Turkey Suspends Defense Industry Ties With Israel

Posted September 6th, 2011 at 4:36 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey says it is suspending military trade and cooperation with Israel and increasing naval surveillance in Mediterranean waters following Israel's refusal to apologize for a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship last year.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Ankara's “trade, military and defense industry” relations with Israel will be suspended “completely.” His office later clarified that Mr. Erdogan was referring to a suspension of defense projects with Israeli companies, not overall trade, which Ankara says was worth $3.5 billion last year.

The prime minister also said Turkish warships will become more visible in the eastern Mediterranean, where Israel carried out the May 2010 raid on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara as it sailed toward the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid for Palestinians.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that senior American diplomats, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are working with both countries to “de-escalate” the crisis. A department spokeswoman said Washington is “concerned” about the state of affairs and believes the two nations must have positive relations.

Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara to enforce a Gaza blockade aimed at preventing weapons from reaching militants who control Gaza.

A confrontation on the vessel led to the killings of nine Turkish activists, including a Turkish-American, and the wounding of several Israeli soldiers.

Turkey ordered the expulsion of Israel's ambassador last week, when Israel rejected an ultimatum to apologize for the raid. Ankara demanded an apology by the time a United Nations panel released a report on the Mavi Marmara incident. The report was issued Friday.

Israel has expressed regret for the deaths of the Turks. An Israeli official said Tuesday Israel does not want to see a further deterioration in relations with Turkey.

Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday he may impose additional sanctions on Israel, but he did not elaborate. He also said he may visit Gaza to promote his campaign for an end to the Israeli naval blockade of the territory. Mr. Erdogan said his government is discussing such a visit with Egyptian officials. Egypt shares a small border with Gaza.

The U.N. panel said Israel used “excessive and unreasonable” force by sending armed commandos to storm the Mavi Marmara. But the report also said Israel's enforcement of the naval blockade was a “legitimate” security measure against the ship and other vessels in the Gaza-bound flotilla. The group also accused flotilla organizers of acting “recklessly” by trying to challenge the blockade.

Israel has accepted the report with some reservations, while Turkey rejected its key findings. The two former allies had conducted joint military exercises for years.