Erdogan to Israel: Stop Attacking Gaza or No Normalization
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Thursday that his country’s ties with Israel would not return to normal unless Israel ceases its offensive on Gaza, AFP reports.
"You will first stop this oppression. If not, it is not possible to realize normalization between Turkey and Israel," Erdogan said in the central Anatolian city of Yozgat after a dinner breaking the daily Ramadan fast.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been strained in recent years, in light of the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010.
The Mavi Marmara, which claimed to international media to be providing "humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza," was the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's Gaza blockade on May 31, 2010.
The ship defied orders to turn around and dock at the Ashdod port. After it ignored repeated warnings to change course, the IDF boarded the vessel - only to be attacked by Islamist extremists on board.
The soldiers had no choice but to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine of the activists on board.
After an investigation, Israeli authorities discovered the vessel to be carrying no humanitarian aid - in fact, no aid supplies at all - whatsoever.
When Israel refused Turkey’s demands to apologize for raiding the Marmara, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.
Israel and Turkey have been locked in talks for more than a year over compensation, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu extended a formal apology to Ankara under pressure by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Erdogan said Thursday that Turkey's first two conditions - apology and compensation - appeared to have been fulfilled.
He added, however, that Israel’s recent airstrikes on Gaza showed that Israel had no intention of complying with Ankara's third condition: ending the blockade on the enclave.
"Then how can we normalize (ties) with you?" he said, according to AFP.
Erdogan also lashed out at what he called Israel's "disproportionate use of force against innocent" Palestinians, calling on the world and the United Nations to stop the assault.
He spoke on the phone with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal about the Israeli action in Gaza, an official from his office told AFP.