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Erdogan Plans Possible Gaza Strip Visit

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a portrait of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk in the background, watches TV at his office at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, June 13, 2011 (file photo)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he would like to visit the Gaza Strip after his upcoming trip to Egypt.

Erdogan said the plans are not definite. He said Turkey's foreign ministry will work on making the arrangements and that "if conditions are favorable," he will consider making the visit.

Analysts say the prime minister's statement could reignite tensions between Turkey and Israel, at a time when the two countries are working to mend a diplomatic rift.

Relations between Israel and Turkey, which had long been Israel's closest friend in the Middle East, were severely strained last year when Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine Turkish activists.

The Reuters news agency has quoted Erdogan as saying it would be "unthinkable" for his country to normalize ties with Israel, unless Israel apologized for the deaths of the Turkish activists.

Israel says that its marines acted in self-defense after an initial boarding party was attacked by activists with clubs and knives. Israel justifies its blockade of Gaza, saying it is aimed at stopping arms from reaching Hamas, an Islamist militant party that controls the area.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.