Turkey says it won’t send gunboats to Gaza any time soon

Officials say prime minister Erdogan's quotes were misinterpreted; Israel says no decision has been made about assisting Kurds fighting Anakara.

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September 11, 2011 07:28
3 minute read.
Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey PM Erdogan 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Turkey and Israel took baby-steps back over the weekend from a further dramatic deterioration in ties, with Turkish officials saying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats of sending gunboats to Gaza were misinterpreted – and Israel made clear it had not decided to support the Kurdish militants fighting Turkey.

According to officials quoted in Istanbul’s Today’s Zaman newspaper over the weekend, remarks Erdogan made during an interview on Al Jazeera Thursday about the gunboats were “quoted out of context.”

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According to the paper, in the Turkish version of the interview, Erdogan said: “At the moment, no doubt, Turkish warships are first of all liable to protect their own ships. This is the first step. And there is humanitarian aid, which we will extend. Our humanitarian assistance will no longer be attacked as happened in the case of the Mavi Marmara.”

A senior government official quoted by Today’s Zaman on Friday said Erdogan’s remarks did not mean Ankara was preparing to send humanitarian-aid ships to Gaza, escorted by Turkish gunboats.

“As long as Israel does not interfere in the freedom of navigation, we do not plan on sending any warships to escort humanitarian-aid ships,” the official was quoted as saying.

“The misquoted remarks suggest that we have been readying to provide a warship to escort each humanitarian aid ship. This is not the case. However, Turkey will protect its citizens’ rights in the event of any interference in international waters.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night Israel wanted to prevent a further deterioration of ties with Turkey.

“We didn’t choose this, and we will work to lower the flames, and if possible to rebuild the ties.”

Also on Saturday night, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a Channel 2 interview that there was no Israeli proposal on the agenda to help or have contact with the PKK Kurdish militant organization.

Lieberman was referring to a story in Yediot Aharonot on Friday that this was one of the steps the government was discussing as a response to threats from Ankara.

Among the other steps reportedly under consideration in the Foreign Ministry were issuing a travel advisory warning Israelis – especially those who served in the IDF – against visits to Turkey; strengthening cooperation with the Armenians, Turkey’s historical rivals, and with their powerful lobby in Washington; and waging diplomatic warfare against Turkey in the international community by focusing the world’s attention on its human-rights violations in its ongoing battle with the Kurds.

“The Foreign Ministry has had many discussions and brainstorming sessions, and there are many ideas,” Lieberman said. “We are looking at all the scenarios. I think that regarding Turkey, both sides have an interest in strengthening the ties and returning to normalization. We don’t want a conflict with the Turks, but we also will not raise the white flag.”

Soon after the Yediot article appeared on Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying Israel’s policy “was and remains to prevent deterioration in ties with Turkey and [to promote] a calming of the tensions between the two countries.”

The statement said the prime minister and the government discussed numerous theoretical possibilities in the event of an escalation.

“But a decision will only be made when it is needed. Israel acted, and will act, responsibly, and hopes that Turkey will do the same.”


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