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Turkish Ships Will Escort Gaza Aid 

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Old 09-09-2011, 03:16 AM
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Turkish Ships Will Escort Gaza Aid

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan amped up Turkey’s dispute with Israel on Thursday by announcing that Turkish warships will escort any Turkish vessels delivering aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

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Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan amped up Turkey’s dispute with Israel on Thursday by announcing that Turkish warships will escort any Turkish vessels delivering aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Turkey has NATO's second biggest military and its navy is considered to be superior to that of Israel, which has expanded patrols in the eastern Mediterranean to enforce the Gaza blockade, Reuters reports.

Erdogan also said Turkey would stop Israel unilaterally exploiting natural resources from the eastern Mediterranean, according to al-Jazeera's Arabic translation of excerpts of an interview conducted in Turkish, the Guardian reports.

The current spat between the two countries started last week when the United Nations released a report that found Israel used “excessive” force when it raided a Gaza-bound Turkish-flagged protest flotilla in 2010, but said Israel was entitled to its blockade of Gaza. Turkey wants Israel to apologize for the raid, which left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead, but Israel has refused, saying it acted in self-defense.

On Friday, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara, suspended military deals and said it would have a greater naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Turk warships to escort any Gaza aid vessels: Erdogan
Analysis: Turkey's gunboat diplomacy makes waves in region - Reuters

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Turkey suspends ties with Israel
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In September 2011, Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador after Israel refused to apologize for the killing of nine activists (eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American with dual citizenship) in the Gaza flotilla raid following a UN report that found that the blockade of Gaza was legal according to international law but that excessive force was used when boarding the ship. The report also stated it cannot make definitive findings either of fact or law. But it can give its view.

Israeli officials stated that they hoped to restore ties but reiterated that they would not apologize. Hamas praised Turkey's decision.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Turkey's opposition leader, condemned the downgrade in relations with Israel, stating "No good can come of it and there is no need for us to risk our interest with petty action." Amnesty International, a harsh critic of both the blockade and flotilla raid said Turkey was "understandably angry".

On 3 September 2011, at a news conference foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said "Turkey will take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean." Turkish media reported that Turkey is considering sending warships to escort future civilian ships heading to Gaza. Turkey reportedly intends to challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza via a court case at the ICJ It has also been reported that Erdoğan is planning to visit Gaza.

On 6 September 2011, the semi-official Anatolian Agency reported that Turkey's Prime Minister Erdoğan had accused Israel of acting like "a spoiled boy" and described the raid as "savagery". He also announced that "We are completely suspending all of these, trade relations, military relations, related with the defense industry", with regards to Israel.

Erdoğan announced that Turkey's navy will step up its surveillance of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, stating that Turkey will ensure "freedom of navigation" in the eastern Mediterranean by using Turkey's naval bases in the ports of Iskenderun and Aksaz to "keep the area under constant surveillance". He added that "Of course, our ships will show themselves quite often from now on. We will see it very often", he added.

Faruk Logoglu, a deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People's Party, criticized Erdoğan, stating that "The probability that (Turkey's ruling) party has carried Turkey to the brink of a hot conflict is saddening and unacceptable." Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, stated that it was unlikely that Turkish forces "would dare to penetrate Israeli waters", but speculated that Turkey may try to disrupt future Israeli gas exports to Cyprus and warned of a new Turkish-Egyptian alliance that could isolate Israel in the Mediterranean.

Moshe Ya'alon, Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs, accused Turkey of cooperating with Hamas and Iran. In a conference in Tel Aviv, he said "How can you trust a government that consorts with Iran and Hamas?" According to the Shin Bet, Hamas established a command post in Turkey and has used it to recruit operatives and oversee operations in the Middle East.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak predicted that the current coolness in relations between the two countries will pass in time. He said that Turkey and Israel are the two most important countries in the region as far as the West is concerned, that the UN vindicated Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, and that both countries "recognize reality."

Wiki entry: Israel–Turkey relations

A timeline of Turkey-Israel relations by the Washington Institute of Near East Studies [.PDF file]

To me it looks like a serious escalation has begun, but i could be wrong.

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