Lieberman: No apology to Turkey

FM responds to Ankara's threat to break diplomatic ties with Israel.

lieberman threatening 311 (photo credit: AP)
lieberman threatening 311
(photo credit: AP)
Israel will not apologize to the Turks for the Gaza flotilla incident, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in Riga on Monday, shortly after his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, said his country would sever diplomatic ties if Israel did not apologize for the May 31 incident or allow an international investigation.
Lieberman, currently on a visit to Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, issued a statement saying that there has been a dramatic switch in Turkish policy resulting from domestic changes inside the country, changes manifest last month in Turkey’s vote against Iran sanctions at the UN Security Council, in opposition to the US.
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“Changes in Turkey are a domestic matter, and we will not interfere,” Lieberman said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also made clear in an interview on Friday night with Channel 1 that there would be no apology.
“Israel cannot apologize for its soldiers being forced to defend themselves against a mob that almost lynched and slaughtered them,” he said.
Nine men were killed after IDF commandos were attacked when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships trying to break the blockade of Gaza.
Netanyahu denied Turkish media reports that following Davutoglu’s meeting with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer in Brussels last week, Israel was considering an apology.
“We are sorry for loss of life; that is clear as day,” the prime minister said, adding, however, that there was no truth in the Turkish press reports.
Davutoglu was quoted on Monday in the Turkish Hürriyet newspaper as saying that Israel had “three paths ahead: It either apologizes, or accepts the findings from an international commission investigating the raid, or Turkey will cut off ties.”
Ankara recalled its ambassador following the flotilla raid, saying it was reviewing its ties with Jerusalem.
Also on Monday, AFP reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad warned during a visit to Madrid that the Israel- Turkey crisis could impact the stability in the Middle East and undermine Ankara’s role in the region’s peace negotiations.
“If the relationship between Turkey and Israel is not renewed, it will be very difficult for Turkey to play a role in negotiations” to revive the Middle East peace process, Assad was quoted as saying.
In 2008, Turkey mediated indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria.
Even before the flotilla raid, Israel, because of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vicious verbal attacks against Israel since Operation Cast Lead, had said that Turkey was no longer able to play a mediating role in talks with Syria.
One Israeli official said that if Turkey cut diplomatic ties with Israel, its status as a serious player in the Middle East would be severely eroded, because a country cannot expect to play a role in the diplomatic process without maintaining relations with Israel.
Turkey, the source said, benefited internationally by being seen as a potential bridge between Israel and the Muslim world.