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Turkey's new premier says 'no hope' of normalizing ties with Israel unless Gaza blockade lifted

September 1, 2014 20:45

Turkey's new prime minister said on Monday he would pursue strong economic growth and EU ambitions, while in the Middle East he saw no hope of "normalizing" ties with Israel unless it ended a blockade of the Gaza strip.

Ahmet Davutoglu offered no suggestion of any change of emphasize in policies pursued with greater or lesser vigor over the last 11 years by Tayyip Erdogan, who was elected to a new, more powerful presidency last month.

"The new Turkey will be a major and pioneering country," Davutoglu told parliamentary deputies, reading from the 189-page document and pledging a nation that would be "freer and more prosperous, more just and prestigious."

He said Ankara would continue to support refugees from the war in Syria, while pressing ahead with contacts with with Kurdish militants to settle a decades-old conflict that has cost over 40,000 lives.

But he said progress in the normalization of relations with Israel would only be possible if the Jewish state stopped attacks on Gaza and ended its restrictions on the Strip.

Turkey was once Israel's closest regional ally in the region. But Erdogan has been a strident critic of its treatment of the Palestinians during the recent conflict that Israel says was triggered by Palestinian rocket attacks on its territory and the use of tunnels to infiltrate attackers.

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