ANKARA, JERUSALEM (Combined Sources)—After an United Nations report on last year’s Turkey’s flotilla incident in the Gaza Strip, relations between long-time allies Turkey and Israel became more tense as Turkey vowed military sanctions.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Tuesday that Turkey was “totally suspending” defense industry ties with Israel, after downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel, reported the Hurriyet Daily News.
In vowing more sanctions against Israel, Erdogan said “our ships will be seen more frequently in those waters,” referring to the Eastern Mediterranean, reported Hurriyet.
The UN report issued Friday found that Israel was within its rights to raid the Turkish flotilla in order to avoid arms shipments to Palestinians. The report, however, criticized Israel’s use of force was excessive. Israel continued to refuse to apologize to Turkey, which has angered Turkish officials.
Ankara has ordered the top Israel envoy and other high-level diplomats to leave Turkey by Wednesday.
Ella Ofek, the deputy to the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Sunday and verbally notified about Turkey’s decision. Ankara also informed Israel about the obligation in a written note on Monday, an official from the ministry told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Passengers traveling to Turkey from Israel were interrogated upon arrival at Istanbul airport, as were passengers traveling from Turkey to Istanbul were similarly questions at the Tel Aviv airport, reported the New York Times.
The United States expressed concern about tensions between Israel and Turkey and Ankara’s threats to slap additional sanctions on Israel, and is endeavoring to mend fences between the two parties, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.
While praising the UN report on the flotilla incident, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and the U.S. Ambassador in Ankara recently met at length with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to try to diffuse the tensions, reported the Haaretz newspaper..
“We are concerned”, said Nuland. “We have over many months tried to work with our ally Turkey and our ally Israel to strengthen and improve their bilateral relationship. We still believe that getting back to a good partnership between them is in each of their interests, and we will continue to work for that goal with both of them.”
“There are freedom of navigation issues for both Turkey and for Israel, but we want to avoid future confrontations and we want both of these strong allies of the United States to get back to a place where they have a good working relationship with each other”.
In his remarks, Erdoğan told reporters that he may visit Gaza and would decide whether to do so after talks with Egypt. Erdoğan is planning to visit Cairo later this month.