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Erdogan to Launch Arab Spring Tour

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, left, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on August 30, 2011 (file photo).

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will depart Monday to visit countries where activists have staged popular uprisings against long-time rulers.

With planned stops in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia - and possibly a trip into the Gaza Strip from Egypt - Erdogan's tour comes at a time when Turkish-Israeli ties have hit a new low.

Turkey recently expelled top Israeli diplomats, suspended military trade with Israel and vowed to increase naval surveillance in Mediterranean waters, angered by its former ally's refusal to apologize for a deadly raid on a Turkish aid ship last year. On Wednesday, Erdogan accused Israel of failing to meet its obligations in bilateral defense deals involving Turkey's purchase of Israeli drones.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday the worsening of Israeli-Turkish relations was not Israel's "choice."

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli ties is linked to the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and said President Barack Obama believes the Israelis and Palestinians should resume peace talks.

A United Nations report released last week said Israel used "excessive and unreasonable" force by sending armed commandos to storm the Turkish aid vessel. But the report also said Israel's enforcement of its Gaza naval blockade was a "legitimate" security measure against the ship and other vessels in the Gaza-bound flotilla.

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