Turkey heaps pressure on Israel over Gaza

Turkey heaps pressure on Israel over Gaza
# 08 June 2010 03:34 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Turkey called for international punishment of Israel for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, telling a regional summit on Monday that Israel’s blockade of the territory should be lifted immediately, APA reports quoting “Reuters”.
Leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as Israel’s enemies Iran and Syria are to attend two-day Eurasian and Middle East talks in Istanbul at which Israel’s storming of the Turkish ship is likely to dominate discussions.
"The time has come to lift the embargo on Gaza," Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a joint news conference with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. "We don’t want an open air prison in the world any more."
Turkey wants a final declaration by the Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) forum to condemn last Monday’s raid by Israeli commandos in which nine Turks were killed.
"If CICA is the OECD of Asia then the final declaration of the summit should have a statement about Israel’s attack," a Turkish official said, referring to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"If there was such an attack in Hungary, for example, then all OECD countries would have a say."
Israel, a member of CICA, is sending a diplomat from its consulate in Ankara rather than exposing a higher-ranking figure to the fury over last week’s killings, which drew world censure.
Erdogan, who has said nothing would ever be the same between the two nations, accused Israel of using disproportionate force and of committing a "war crime."
Assad, whose country is not a member of CICA but is attending as a guest, struck a similar anti-Israeli note, saying the killings reflected "the nature of Israel."
"Israel committed this crime knowingly and the forensic experts showed these were murders," Assad said.
Both Erdogan and Assad, who said "Turkish blood is not different from Arab blood," called for an international investigation into the killings.
Israel rejected such a proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and said it had the right to launch its own inquiry, saying that its forces acted in self-defense after they were set upon by pro-Palestinian activists wielding clubs and knives.
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," is among eight presidents at the talks, which kicked off on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s full summit.
Ahmadinejad met Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on Monday.
Turkey, NATO’s only Muslim member and a candidate to join the European Union, has sought to raise its international profile in recent years, mediating in issues ranging from Afghanistan/Pakistan ties to Iran’s nuclear programme.
Critics say Erdogan’s government, which has a hard core of support among religious conservatives and strong backing in the broader population, risks tilting too far toward stronger ties with Middle East governments the West does not trust.
While the forum aims to dampen regional tensions, the plight of the Palestinians is also due at center stage, with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas attending the talks.
Erdogan, who has become a folk hero in the Middle East for his attacks on Israel, has said the fate of Jerusalem is not different from the fate of Istanbul.
The nine Turks were killed on Monday in the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a six-vessel convoy that set out to challenge the blockade of the Gaza Strip imposed in 2006 after Hamas Islamists won control of the territory.
Turkey’s Islamist-leaning government and the Turkish public were infuriated by the killings.
After the CICA meeting, Arab League foreign ministers are due to gather for a Turkish-Arab Forum on Wednesday.
Turkey, with Brazil’s help, brokered an accord with Iran for a nuclear fuel swap, in the hope of heading off sanctions against a fellow Muslim neighbor, major trading partner and key supplier of gas.
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