UN chief: Israel, Turkey ties important for Mideast peace

Ban Ki-moon, US State Department regret ongoing diplomatic row between Ankara, Jerusalem over 'Marmara' raid.

September 3, 2011 07:18
3 minute read.
Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon 311 Reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that good relations between Turkey Israel are important for future peace in the region, and urged both sides to improve ties and accept the recommendations of a UN report into the deaths of nine Turkish activists when IDF soldiers entered a Gaza-bound ship.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated since the UN report was made public on Thursday. Turkey has expelled Israel's ambassador and frozen military cooperation after the report failed to prompt an apology from Israel.

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Ban said strong ties between Turkey and Israel, which both share a border with Syria, were important for the Middle East and the future of the Middle East peace process.

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"Both countries are very important countries in the region. Their improved relationship, normal relationship, will be very important in addressing all the situations in the Middle East, including the Middle East peace process," Ban said.

The UN chief declined personal comments on the UN report, which was written by a panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer.

Ban's comments echoed a statement out of the US State Department on Friday, when spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US regretted the ongoing diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, two of the US's strongest allies in the region.

"We regret that prior to the publication of the [Palmer] report they were unable to reach agreement on steps that might have helped overcome their differences," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, adding that the US continues to hope that the governments in Ankara and Jerusalem will work for a complete resolution and fix their "longstanding relationship."

Earlier Friday, US Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) was more critical of Turkey, calling the government in Ankara hypocritical for its decision to expel Israel's ambassador to Ankara while Syria's envoy to Turkey remains in place.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday said that Israel's diplomatic presence in Turkey was being cut to second secretary level, effectively expelling Israeli diplomats after details emerged of the Palmer Report which dealt with the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship.

"Turkey should be ashamed of itself," Engel, a senior member of the US House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement.  "In an almost unbelievable act of hypocrisy, the Syrian ambassador sits comfortably in Ankara, while the Assad regime kills more than 2000 of its own people, but Turkey has expelled the Israeli Ambassador for Israel’s proper enforcement of a legally-established blockade.  Rather than bashing the only real democracy in the Middle East, Turkey should focus on its own problems, such as ending its occupation of Cyprus once and for all," he stated.

Engel also commented on the UN report on the raid of the Mavi Marmara: “The Palmer Commission report accurately confirmed that Israel acted within its rights in establishing a blockade of Gaza, and enforcing it.  I think the report went too far, however, when it said Israel used ‘excessive’ force.  Only after the Israelis faced serious, life-threatening violence did they act legally in self defense.  I can see nothing wrong with that.”

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