Monday, 31 May 2010

Raid on flotilla puts final nail in coffin of Turkish ties with Israel

As details slowly emerge in the wake of Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip, leaders from Turkey’s ruling and opposition parties raise their voices to condemn the action. It is the latest and worst incident in a long line of troublesome encounters over the last year and a half between the two allies and some say this could be the final act. ‘Our relations will never be the same,’ says a member of the ruling AKP

Israel’s deadly attack on a Palestinian aid convoy is likely to be the last straw in already fraught Turkish-Israeli relations, according to senior officials in Turkey’s ruling party.

Though the identities of the killed civilians were still unknown late Monday when the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to print, it is believed that many of the dead are Turkish citizens.

“Our relations with Israel will never be the same,” Hüseyin Çelik, spokesman of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, told reporters Monday.

The Israeli attack dealt a devastating blow to relations already strained by tensions over Israeli actions in Gaza in late 2008.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s escalating rhetoric that targeted the Israeli government and his remarks that Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons capacity was comparable to Iran’s quest to develop such weapons was responsible for putting a strain on bilateral ties over the past year.

On Monday, Turkey appeared to be taking the lead in gathering international support against the Israeli attack, with the government already pressing international organizations such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, the European Union and the Arab League to take action.

“The worst possible scenario has happened,” said the head of the Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, or TÜRKSAM, Sinan Oğan.

“Israel has made a suicide commando move, and has committed suicide internationally, he said. “The Turkish-Israeli relationship is now open to every different scenario.”

He said, “The relationship between Turkey and Israel will face its biggest test in history, with the possibility of Turkey taking this issue to the European Union.”

Hasan Köni, an international relations professor, said the incident would further strain Turkish-Israeli ties in comments to the private Habertürk channel on Monday.

“Israel lost a lot. It’s a major mistake in the eyes of the West. This will strengthen Turkey’s hands,” Köni said, adding that it will be hard to repair Turkish-Israeli ties in the near future following Turkey’s decision to recall its ambassador for a second time in only a few months.

In addition to the diplomatic recall, Turkey also canceled three joint military drills and sporting activities on Monday.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also called on the United Nations Security Council to convene an urgent meeting on the attack, which was declared “piracy” by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç. Erdoğan, meanwhile, cut short his Latin America tour and was expected to return home Tuesday.

Three pillars of the strategy

Turkey’s strategy against Israel will likely be based on three main dimensions, including political, legal and humanitarian aspects.

Politically, Turkey plans to mobilize all international organizations to exert pressure on Tel Aviv to change its aggressive policies toward the Palestinians and remove the blockade on West Bank. Turkey is also likely to push for a global front to force Israel to punish those responsible for Monday’s attacks.

On the legal front, Turkish diplomats have begun to explore avenues to determine whether it is possible to bring the attack before international courts.

Lastly, Turkey will also use the attack to draw attention to the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people. The visit of Mahmoud Abbas, president of Palestine, is seen within this context.

Attack not to remain unanswered

Crisis desks were established at the Turkish Prime Ministry and the Foreign Ministry on Monday morning. Speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting, Arınç said 400 of the Mavi Marmara’s 581 passengers were Turks.

“I strongly condemn the use of force by Israeli military forces on an aid convoy composed of 32 countries, including Turkey,” he said. “This attack must not remain unanswered.”

Arınç said the government was not involved in the organization of the flotilla, saying it was a pure civil society initiative.

Early in the day, Israel’s ambassador to Ankara, Gabby Levy, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Deputy Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz demanded Levy provide a detailed report about the outcome of the passengers of the boats, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned.

Çeviköz said it was against international law to forcibly interfere with ships carrying humanitarian aid in international waters.

“We want the return of the injured, and the cooperation needed to have them treated in Turkey. We expect the other passengers to be returned to their countries immediately,” he said. “We demand an end to this unlawful situation, and the release of the detained ships in international waters.”

Meanwhile, while en route to the United States, Davutoğlu said, “Under all conditions, even if no one had been injured, this is still an act of piracy.”

Opposition slams Israel

Turkey’s two main opposition parties strongly criticized Israel over a deadly attack on ships carrying aid to Gaza, announcing their support for a government decision to take the issue to international organizations.

“Nothing can justify this inhumane attack,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told reporters at a press conference Monday.

Criticizing the Israeli government for not sufficiently warning members of civilian organizations before their departure that soldiers could use deadly force, Kılıçdaroğlu said recalling the Turkish ambassador was the correct decision.

Devlet Bahçeli, head of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, called Israel’s attacks barbaric and said attacking a ship flying a Turkish flag was a hostile move. “These attacks should not be left unreciprocated. The reaction of the government should not be temporary and left on paper.”

He also asked the government to cut all economic and defense relations with Israel, adding that the country must pay compensation for the attacks.

“It should also apologize to Turkey,” Bahçeli said.


Anonymous said...

I speculate Zionism attracts Jews who are so self hating as to seek their own destruction.

Anonymous said...

But is it good for Israel?

Know them by the side theirs is buttered on.

Racists of every hue mistake their shekels for the love of Jews.