ANKARA // Turkey is threatening not to send its ambassador back to Israel unless it receives an apology for the deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships and other steps are taken to make amends, a government official said today. Turkey wants Israel to apologise for the raid, return the seized ships, agree to an international investigation into the raid and offer compensation for the victims, the government official said. Today, Israel agreed to ease its land blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, hoping to quell growing worldwide outrage over its maritime confrontation with the aid flotilla.
The May 31 raid on a Turkish ship in the flotilla killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, including eight Turks and a Turkish-American teenager. Israel's action drew international outrage and prompted Turkey to withdraw its ambassador. Turkey, which had a solid alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war, which ended in early 2009, has already cancelled three joint military drills and has said it would reduce military and trade ties and shelve discussions of energy projects, including natural gas and fresh water shipments.
The official said Turkey would not send an envoy to Israel until the country takes steps toward meeting the demands. No time frame was given but the official said Turkey wanted its expectations to be met within a "reasonable" period of time. Turkey recently named a new ambassador for Israel but he was unlikely to take up his post by August, as initially planned, the official added. The Turkish ship was part of a six-vessel international aid flotilla sailing to Gaza to break an Israeli blockade imposed to keep weapons and other military components out of the hands of Gaza militants who have attacked Israel with bombs, rockets and mortars for years.
Israel insists troops involved in the deadly raid acted in self-defence after being attacked by some of the activists on board. Israel has objected to an international inquiry into the operation and has set up its own investigative commission that includes two foreign observers. * AP