Turkey expels Israel envoy over flotilla raid row

 

Jerusalem

Turkey announced the expulsion of Israel's ambassador yesterday and the freezing of military relations in response to the Netanyahu government's refusal to apologise for the lethal raid it authorised on a Gaza-bound flotilla 15 months ago.

The move, which threatened the most serious downgrading of official relations between the two countries for 30 years, came before the formal publication of a UN report on the raid which killed nine Turks aboard the flotilla's lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.

The report, from a team headed by former New Zealand premier Sir Geoffrey Palmer, criticises Israel's use of firepower during the raid as "excessive and unreasonable" but says the naval blockade it was enforcing was legal and justified – a conclusion Turkey disputes.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's Foreign minister, told reporters that the Israeli ambassador and other diplomats would be gone by Wednesday. He said military agreements between the two countries would be suspended and that other possible sanctions could include naval restrictions on Israel in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkish state backing for court actions against Israel by the families of victims of the raid.

The Foreign minister added: "The time has come for Israel to pay for its stance that sees it above international laws and disregards human conscience. The first and foremost result is that Israel is going to be devoid of Turkey's friendship."

While Turkey has insisted a full apology is a condition of restoring relations, Israel is arguing that the report seeks only reparations and an expression of "regret" for the deaths of the Mavi Marmara passengers – recommendations the Netanyahu government has indicated it would be prepared to meet.

Asked why the report did not demand the apology Turkey has consistently sought, the country's president, Abdullah Gul, said: "To be frank, the report is null and void for us." Mr Davutoglu indicated Turkey would be seeking a re-examination of the blockade's legality by the UN and the International Court of Justice.

The US, which is concerned about the consequences of a breakdown in relations, has reportedly pressed Israel to apologise. But Israel last night repeated that it would not do so. Although there was no ministerial comment on the Turkish move, a senior diplomatic official said: "As advised in the report, Israel once again expresses its regret over the loss of life, but will not apologise for its soldiers taking action to defend their lives. Like any other state, Israel has the right to defend its civilians and soldiers."

The official described the Palmer Report as "professional, serious and comprehensive". He insisted that Israel "cherishes the significant ties... between the Turkish and Jewish peoples". That was why, he added, Israel had made "numerous attempts" to settle the dispute.

Alon Liel, a former diplomat and an advocate of good Israeli-Turkish relations, said the current freeze could jeopardise more than $2bn a year in mutual trade. He added that military ties had already loosened since the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP government, but that the move could put a question mark over Israel's export of drones to the Turkish military.

The report says participants in the flotilla "acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade," which was militarily justified because of the risk of weapons being imported to Gaza. It notes the danger the Israeli soldiers faced but adds that no satisfactory explanation has been provided for any of the deaths.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future