Turkey recalls top envoy

Ankara warns of potentially irreparable harm to ties.

June 1, 2010 06:43
2 minute read.
Turkish ambassador to Israel Oguz Celikkol.

Turkish ambassador Oguz Celikkol. (photo credit: AP)

Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel on Monday and warned that the IDF’s pre-dawn raid on the Gaza flotilla might have caused “irreversible consequences” in the relationship between the two countries.

“It should be known that we are not going to remain silent in the face of this inhumane state terrorism,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid initial reports that Turkish nationals may have been among the dead and wounded.

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Turkey canceled three joint military drills with Israel and called on the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session on the matter.

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Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that a youth soccer team in Israel would be brought home as well.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Israel was surprised to hear that Turkey had asked its ambassador, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, to return to Ankara. The issue had not come up in a conversation the Foreign Ministry had with Celikkol on Monday morning, nor in the conversation that Israel’s ambassador to Turkey had with officials in Ankara.

Turkey’s Deputy Under-Secretary Selim Yenel told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to recall the ambassador had been taken only after those meetings were held.

“Under the circumstances,” he said, “it was the least we could do.”

Turkey has recalled its ambassador from other countries in response to much less.

He said he did not know how long it would be before the ambassador was returned. At present, he said, Celikkol had been “recalled for consultations.”

But there was no question, he added, that Israel’s actions had harmed the relationship between the two countries, which has been rocky since the IDF’s military operation in Gaza in January 2009.

“We have tried to salvage the relationship,” he said.

Yenel noted that it was important to stress that “this is not a Turkish-Israel incident,” but an issue of Israel’s relationship with the international community.

This was an attack on a “peaceful ship,” said Yenel, who dismissed the IDF claim that it had been attacked.

There are peaceful ways of preventing boats from entering one’s territory, he said.

“We expect Israel to act in a responsible fashion and to make amends,” he added.

However, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman defended Israel’s actions, without which, he said, ships like this one could transport weapons to Gaza.

Israel had the right, as did any sovereign nation, to inspect ships heading into its waters, he said. The foreign minister added that Israel “has not changed its attitude toward Turkey; it is Turkey which has changed.”

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