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Turkey Threatens to Cut Ties With Israel

Sendai, Japan, March 14, 2011
Sendai, Japan, March 14, 2011

Turkey is threatening to break diplomatic ties with Israel over its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a break in diplomatic ties could only be avoided if Israel either apologized or accepted the outcome of an international inquiry into the raid.

The Israeli government says it has no reason to apologize.

Ankara withdrew its ambassador and demanded the Israelis issue an apology after the naval raid, in which eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed. Since the incident, relations between the once friendly nations, have chilled.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selim Yenel refused to describe the Turkish comments as an ultimatum, but rather a warning. "How the relations will continue or we will cut off relations, what he meant is that if these two points are not taken up, then it will be very very difficult to repair the relationship," he said.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week ruled out an apology and rejected demands for an independent inquiry. Israel is carrying out its own investigation in the presence of two international observers.

The Turkish foreign minister's comments come as a surprise. Last week, Davutoglu met Israel's Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in Brussels in an attempt to rebuild relations between the two countries.

Foreign ministry spokesman Yenel described the talks as constructive, but warned unless Turkish demands are met, relations will remain stalled. "Well that means that relationship will suffer and I suppose we will have to wait until the next government will take power in Israel," he said.

Observers say the apparent hardening of Ankara's stance towards Israel will come as a blow to Washington, which has reportedly been lobbying both countries to resolve their differences. This issue is expected to be on the agenda in talks Tuesday in Washington between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.