Turkey says warships will escort Gaza convoys
Saturday 10 September 2011
Turkey has said its warships will escort future convoys attempting to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza, a move that raises the risk of a naval confrontation.
The threat from the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, comes as the countries face their most serious diplomatic rift in decades after Israel's refusal to apologise for its storming in May 2010 of the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in a Gaza-bound aid convoy, which resulted in the death of nine Turkish nationals.
"At the moment, there is no doubt that the Turkish military ships' primary duty is to protect [Turkish] ships," Mr Erdogan told Al-Jazeera on Thursday. "We will be delivering humanitarian aid. This aid will no longer be subjected to any kind of attack as the Mavi Marmara was."
Dan Meridor Israel's Intelligence Minister, labelled the comments "harsh and serious". But he warned against "verbal sabre-rattling", saying "silence is the best response".
Turkey has launched a series of sanctions against Israel in recent days, downgrading diplomatic ties, expelling Israel's ambassador and suspending military co-operation. This followed a UN investigation into the storming of the flotilla which upheld the legality of Israel's blockade of Gaza, imposed after the Islamist group Hamas seized control. But it seems unlikely that the rhetoric will lead to military conflict between the two countries.
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