Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador Over U.N. Report
UN Secretary general Ban Ki-moon urged on Saturday Turkey and Israel to mend their relations after Turkey expelled Israeli ambassador from Ankara on Friday over the UN Palmer report that was presented and that was saying that Israel acted within the legal boundaries in May 2010 against the vessel Mavi Marmara, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. Nine Turks lost their lives in the incident.
Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced in a brief statement the decision to expel the ambassador and to suspend the military agreements between Israel and Turkey. He added that the level of diplomatic ties with Israel will be reduced to second secretary. He said the ambassador was expected to leave by Wednesday. Both Israeli and Turkish officials refrained from commenting further until the report has been published.
Turkey gave Israel until Friday to offer an apology for the Mavi Marmara incident and to pay compensation to the families of those who were killed. Davutoglu said that a Turkish delegation met four time with the Israeli counterpart and that the prime minister of Israel had agreed with the terms but that it was the divisions within Israeli cabinet that rendered the entire effort useless.
The minister announced that now the Turkish government would help the families of those deceased in the Mavi Marmara incident to prosecute at international level the Israeli military and governmental officials responsible for the deaths of their dear ones.
The Palmer report, issued in September 2010 by a panel of inquiry conducted by former NZ prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Columbian president Alvaro Uribe, was not published until this week because the UN secretary general kept on hoping that the countries would settle their differences and did not want the report to get in the way.
The report states that Israel acted within the international law in defending its national waters, and in imposing a blockade on Gaza as means of national security, but also criticizes the excessive use of force by the IDF, even though it says that when they boarded Mavi Marmara IDF navy forces were met with an organized resistance of the Turks on board.
One very important factor, that may help those eager to prosecute Israeli army, is the mention that some of the Turks were killed in the back or at close range.
Turkey is especially upset over the stipulation that Israel’s action of imposing embargo on Gaza Strip was legal. The main argument of the Turks is that the panel had no right to decide on whether the blockade was legal or not.
President of Turkey Abdullah Gul was so upset about it that he said that Turkey, as the most important military power in the region, would not only defend its rights but would also defend those in need, alluding to the possibility of Turkish vessels patrolling eastern Mediterranean in order to assure that the free movement in the area is respected. This warning, Turkish experts say, could be cause to concern, because it could be taken to mean that the Turks will help those who want to break blockade.
Over the previous months, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that his country’s ambassador would return to Tel Aviv only after the formal apology has been offered, the compensation for the family paid and the blockade on Gaza lifted.
The Jewish state hesitated in offering the apology because it was concerned that doing so would be an admittance of guilt and would place all the soldiers that took part in the action at risk of being judicially prosecuted by the families of those who died.
Israel offered to express regret for the loss of human lives and pay compensation, an offer considered insufficient by Ankara.
It is considered that this stalemate comes at the worst time, as the situation in Syria deteriorates every day, and Israel and Syria are the neighbors of the embattled country, not to mention that they are the most significant military powers in the region.
Turkey and Israel have been very close, and used to hold joint military exercises, but their relation increasingly deteriorated since Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.11