US Urges Turkey to Smooth Relations With Israel

Posted September 19th, 2011 at 3:15 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Turkey to smooth over its growing diplomatic dispute with Israel.

Clinton met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Monday in New York, as world leaders gathered for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. She called on Turkey to “keep the door open” with Israel. The United States is a long-time ally of both countries.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have steadily deteriorated since Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish-led aid flotilla headed for the blockaded port of Gaza in May 2010, leaving nine activists dead.

Turkey has demanded an apology and compensation for the deadly raid. Israel has refused to do either.

Earlier in September, Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador, froze all military ties, and threatened to use its navy to escort Turkish ships headed in the future for the blockaded Palestinian port.

On Monday, Israel said it is ending its police cooperation with Turkey.

U.S. President Barack Obama is to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.

A group of Republican and Democratic senators signed a letter to Mr. Obama asking him to mount a “diplomatic offensive” to defuse tensions between the two countries. The senators said it appears Turkey is shifting its policy toward one of confrontation with Israel, and is making decisions that threaten regional stability.

The Obama administration has been seeking for some time to ease the tensions between the two countries, who once were strategic allies.

Turkey also has challenged Israel's plans to exploit gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, rejecting a deal between Israel and Greek Cypriots. Ankara has said it will begin offshore exploration in the Mediterranean as soon as this week, after Cyprus ignored Turkish warnings and started drilling.

Mr. Erdogan said Monday that the Turkish military will use frigates, aircraft and torpedo boats to monitor developments in the area. Earlier, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz warned that naval vessels will escort his country's oil and gas exploration activities.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan went on a four-day diplomatic tour of North Africa, including Egypt, aiming to expand Turkey's growing influence in the region.