Day after UN panel established, Turks stay busy protesting

US: UN flotilla panel can repair historic Turkey-Israel relationship.

By
August 4, 2010 02:53
3 minute read.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the newborn grandson of Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, is held ne

Haniyeh grandson 311. (photo credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry was busy summoning foreign diplomats on Tuesday, separately calling in the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy, and Israel’s ambassador Gaby Levy, to protest comments by their respective countries.

The US diplomat was called in, according to the Istanbul-based newspaper Hürriyet’s Web site, to hear a Turkish protest over the statement that Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, issued following Monday’s announcement that Israel had agreed to the establishment of a UN panel on the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident.

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Rice said that “the panel, which has the support of both Israel and Turkey, will receive and review the reports of each government’s national investigation into the incident and make recommendations as to how to avoid such incidents in the future. This panel is not a substitute for those national investigations. It complements them, affording Israel and Turkey the opportunity to present the conclusions of their investigations to the international community.

“The focus of the panel is appropriately on the future and on preventing such incidents from recurring,” the statement continued. “The United States also hopes that the panel can serve as a vehicle to enable Israel and Turkey to move beyond the recent strains in their relationship and repair their strong historic ties.”

According to Hürriyet, the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed displeasure over the comments.

“The US statement limits the mission of the probe,” a ministry official was quoted as saying. “Saying ‘the probe is not a substitute for national investigations’ is misleading. This mechanism is not for the reconciliation of Israel and Turkey. This problem is not just a matter between Turkey and Israel; it’s an international problem, since there were citizens of 30 different countries on the flotilla.”

In Israel, meanwhile, one Foreign Ministry official said it was clear that the UN panel was a review panel and not an investigative committee.

Deputy Foreign Ministry Danny Ayalon said Tuesday it was important for the panel to find out the “rationale and motivation” of the flotilla, as well as the background of those who organized and financed the sailing, and who “masqueraded” as peace activists.

Israeli officials dismissed as unimportant Turkish headlines Tuesday saying Israel had caved in on the panel.

“So what?” one official said when asked about the headlines. “We think the panel, as it is now constituted, is the lesser of all evils.”

As if the flotilla incident weren’t enough of an irritation to Israeli- Turkish ties, the Turkish Foreign Ministry called in Israel’s envoy to protest recent remarks by Defense Minister Ehud Barak about concerns that sensitive Israeli intelligence information could have made its way from Turkish to Iranian hands.

Barak, at a closed Labor Party meeting last week, expressed concern over the recent appointment of Hakan Fidan as the chief of Turkey’s intelligence organization.

Apparently unaware that his comments were being recorded, Barak said, “In recent weeks, a man who is a supporter of Iran was appointed to head Turkey’s Mossad. There are a fair number of our secrets that are in [Turkish] hands. The thought that in the past two months they could have been open to the Iranians is quite disturbing.”

Even though the highest echelons of Turkey’s government, first and foremost Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has unleashed vicious criticism of Israel for months, the Web site of the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman quoted security experts as complaining that Barak’s statements “are not only discourteous but also an effort to delegitimize the Turkish government.”

Barak’s comments apparently touched a raw nerve in Ankara, which is very sensitive to concerns, expressed in recent weeks in Israel and elsewhere, that Turkey’s lurch eastward could compromise sensitive military and security information to which the country is privy as a NATO member, and as the recipient of billions of dollars’ worth of Israeli and American arms and military technology.


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