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      Turkey: Warships to Escort Gaza-Bound Aid Vessels

      Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to send warships to escort Turkish aid vessels headed for Gaza.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 9/8/2011, 9:06 PM

      Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatened Thursday to dispatch Turkish warships to escort aid ships from his country to Hamas-ruled Gaza.

      Erdogan also said that Turkey had taken steps to stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources from the eastern Mediterranean, according to Al Jazeera's Arabic translation of excerpts of the interview, which was conducted in Turkish.

      Erdogan's comments came as Turkey downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and heated up rhetoric against the Jewish State in the aftermath of the publication of the UN Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Maramara raid and Israel's refusal to answer Turkish demands to apologize for the incident.

      Israel, in accordance with the Palmer Report's conclusion, has offered only to 'express regret' for the deaths of 9 Turkish nationals who were a part of a mob that attempted to lynch members of Israel's Shayetet-13  naval commando unit, who boarded the vessel.

      Turkey was particuliarly incensed by the Palmer Report's conclusion Israel's blockade of Gaza was "legal and appropriate" and rejected its findings saying the report was "biased." Dispatching warships to violate Israel's blockade would almost certainly be regarded as an Act of War in Jerusalem and could lead to a naval showdown akin to the US-Russian confrontation during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

      Turkey and Egypt will hold a joint naval exercise at the end of the year, according to an unconfirmed report in Egyptian news Web site 'Masrawy' Thursday. An unnamed Egyptian official told the web site the drill would help in the exchange of knowledge and combat techniques between the countries.

      Erdogan will make an official visit to Cairo next week and meet with high-ranking Egyptian officials in a bid to strengthen strategic and business relations between the two countries.