The United States expressed its concern on Tuesday over the diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel and urged the two sides to “de-escalate” their dispute.
“We are concerned,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was quoted by AFP as having said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised her country’s concerns about the row in Paris last week in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu, and Nuland said the U.S. has had discussions with the Israelis about it in recent days.
“Our emphasis with both the government of Turkey and the government of Israel is to hope that we can de-escalate, we can defuse, and we can get them back to talking about improving their relationship,” Nuland was quoted as having said.
She added, “There are freedom of navigation issues for both Turkey and for Israel. But we want to avoid future confrontations, and we want both of these strong allies of the United States to get back to a place where they have a good working relationship with each other.”
The U.S. concern came after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Ankara had declared a cessation of trade, a well as military and high-level diplomatic contacts with Israel.
It was later reported by the Wall Street Journal that a spokesman for Erdogan said the prime minister had been referring in his remarks only to trade in defense goods, and not to trade in general - explaining the contradiction off as a 'translation error'.
On Monday, Ankara gave all Israeli diplomatic staff above the second secretary level 48 hours to leave Turkey.
Israeli diplomats were briefed on a series of ‘sanctions’ Ankara intended to impose on Jerusalem before being ordered to leave the country by Wednesday.
The decision to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel was taken after Jerusalem’s refusal to apologize for a May 2010 IDF naval commando raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish vessel, part of a flotilla that intended to bust the Israeli sea blockade that prevents arms from reaching Gaza's hostile Hamas regime by sea. The vessel ignored orders to change course and head for Ashdod port and its passengers violently attacked Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel. 9 of the Turks aboard were killed as the IDF soldiers defended themselves.
Turkey has also threatened to take Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague over the flotilla incident, but Israeli officials dismissed the threat on Tuesday, saying the threat is a “pistol firing blanks,” since the UN's Palmer Report on the event found the blockade of Gaza justifiable, but Turkey refused to accept the report's conclusions.