Thursday, September 29, 2011

Turkey to escort aid vessels to Gaza

9 September 2011, Turkey: Turkish warships will escort the country's aid vessels bound for the Gaza Strip, protecting them from Israeli ships, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on 9 September.
"Turkish warships will be tasked with protecting the Turkish boats bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," Mr. Erdogan told al-Jazeera television, according to an Arab-language translation of his comments in Turkish. "From now on, we will no longer allow these boats to be the targets of attacks by Israel, like the one on the Freedom flotilla, because then Israel will have to deal with an appropriate response," he warned.
Mr. Erdogan was referring to the clash on 31 May last year when Israeli commandos boarded a six-boat flotilla in international waters in a bid to stop it from breaching Israel's blockade on Gaza. Israeli troops killed nine Turkish nationals on the ship Mavi Marmara in the ensuing confrontation, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries that has strained relations to breaking point.
"Turkey will be firm on its right to control the territorial waters in the east of the Mediterranean," Mr. Erdogan added. Ankara had also "undertaken measures to prevent Israel unilaterally exploiting" the region's natural resources, he warned. The United Nations published a report the previous week condemning last year's Israeli intervention - but saying the blockade itself was legal.
Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended all military ties, including defense-related trade contracts, in retaliation for Israel's refusal to apologize for the raid.

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