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Turkey warns Israel over new Gaza flotilla

May 21, 2011

ANKARA — Turkey on Saturday warned Israel against another act of bloodshed in international waters after activists announced plans to send a new aid flotilla to the blockaded Gaza Strip.

“It should be known that Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview on NTV television.

“Those who believe Turkey should take certain steps to stop (the new flotilla) must first warn Israel not to repeat the human tragedy it caused last year,” he said.

On May 31 last year, Israeli marines swarmed aboard the Turkish flagship of an international aid flotilla bound for Gaza, killing nine Turks in international waters and plunging ties with Ankara into deep crisis.

The Istanbul-based Islamist charity which had spearheaded the mission said Friday that a new convoy of ships would sail to Gaza in the last week of June.

Around 1,500 activists from more than 100 countries will take part in the convoy, organised by 22 civic groups, it said.

Asked whether Ankara had made any attempt to dissuade the group from the campaign, Davutoglu said: “We have never encouraged any convoy. We have shared our views about the safety of our citizens with all related parties. That was the case last year and it is not any different this time.”

The minister insisted however that his Islamist-rooted government “cannot give instructions to civil society” and that Israel’s “unlawful” blockade of Gaza lay at the core of the tensions.

He urged the United States and the international community to back a recent reconciliation deal between the radical Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the secular Fatah faction of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.

“If the division of the Palestinian authorities is healed, the conditions that serve as Israel’s justification for the blockade will be eradicated… and there will be no need for an aid convoy,” he told NTV.

Relations between one-time allies Turkey and Israel remain stuck in crisis after several fence-mending meetings over the past year failed to yield results.

Turkey, which has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, insists that the Jewish state should apologise and compensate the victims’ families.

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