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Turkey’s expulsion of Israeli envoy welcomed

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. (AP Photo)

Source : Agencies | Gaza/Ankara | 03 Sept 2011

The Hamas movement on Friday welcomed Turkey’s decision to expel Israel’s ambassador and its criticism of the Jewish’s state blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“Hamas welcomes the decision (of Turkey) to expel the Israeli ambassador and considers it as a clear answer to Israeli crimes,” Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for the movement, said.

The group which rules Gaza praised the decision, announced by Ankara on Friday, a day after a leaked UN report on a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships heading to the impoverished coastal territory. Hamas criticized the report as “unfair and unbalanced,” and Abu Zuhri condemned Israel for “its continued refusal to take responsibility for the crime (of the raid) and its refusal to lift the siege on Gaza.”

In Ankara, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his nation rejected the report, regarding it as “null and void.”

An Israeli official said the Jewish state considered the UN report “a professional, serious and profound document” but stressed that the Israeli government would not apologize for the actions of its troops.

The Turkish decision increases Israel’s isolation at a sensitive time. Israel faces turmoil in ties with another regional ally, Egypt, where longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was deposed earlier this year and where there have been growing calls to revoke the three-decade-old Egypt-Israel peace agreement. Last month, Egypt briefly threatened to withdraw its ambassador from Israel after a shooting in southern Israel left five Egyptian soldiers dead.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference all diplomatic staff above the level of second secretary would be sent home by Wednesday.

Turkey would also freeze military pacts with its erstwhile ally. “All military agreements have been suspended,” he said.

Israel’s ambassador Gabby Levy is currently in Israel and canceled plans to return to Turkey.

Immediately after the attack on the aid convoy last year, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel, suspended joint military exercises, and barred Israeli military aircraft from Turkish air space.

Turkey’s reaction to the report, which also declared that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip was legal, deepened a rift that broke wide open in 2009 after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan lambasted the then Israeli president Shimon Peres in Davos over an Israeli offensive in Gaza.

The Israeli government, which should analyze best what is happening in the Middle East, is completely lacking in strategy,” President Abdullah Gul told reporters. “Turkey is seeking peace and stability. There are steps which Israel must take in the region to achieve peace and stability.”

Davutoglu said Turkey would seek to raise the question of the blockade’s legality at the International Court of Justice.

He also said: “Turkey will take all measures which it sees as necessary for freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.

Davutoglu also said support would be given to Turkish and foreign victims of the Israeli raid to seek justice from courts.


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