'Israel's bullying in eastern Med is over'
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 9/2/2011 12:00:00 AM | Serkan Demirtaş
The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their 'bullying' practices against civilian vessels, a Turkish official said Friday.
The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their “bullying” practices against civilian vessels, a Turkish official said Friday.
The official said this would be the outcome of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s statement earlier in the day that “Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.”
Davutoğlu’s statement about providing maritime safety in the eastern Mediterranean grabbed the most attention among the various sanctions against Israel the foreign minister announced Friday. He did not further elaborate, however, on what he meant by taking “every precaution.”
The Turkish foreign minister’s statement will likely spark a new faceoff between Turkey and Israel, the region’s strongest armies, in the eastern Mediterranean. A potential confrontation between the two countries’ navies would have serious negative consequences for regional stability.
Turkish diplomats told the Hürriyet Daily News that the Turkish Navy will be more visible in the eastern Mediterranean through regular patrolling in international waters. “A more aggressive strategy will be pursued. Israel will no longer be able to exercise its bullying practices freely,” one said.
Using Turkish naval vessels to escort ships carrying aid to Palestine and observing free navigation in the zone between the island of Cyprus and Israel are among the plans set to be implemented, sources said, adding that Turkish war ships would be more frequently seen in the area.
The zone described by Turkish sources has been the subject of a recent diplomatic struggle between Turkey and Greek Cyprus over the latter’s project to start drilling natural gas reserves. Greek Cyprus and Israel recently agreed to jointly initiate the drilling with the participation of some American companies.
Turkey sees the gas-exploration deal as an agreement between two hostile countries against Turkey and has urged both parties not to get involved in such a project before a solution is found to the Cyprus issue in order to preserve the stability of the eastern Mediterranean.
In an interview with daily Zaman on Friday, EU Minister Egemen Bağış hinted that Turkish Navy could intervene if Greek Cyprus does not call off the project. “That’s what a navy is for,” he said.
[HH] Erdoğan plans Gaza visit
As part of Turkey’s more aggressive strategy against Israel, sources told the Daily News that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is planning to visit Hamas-controlled Gaza in the coming weeks, an intention he voiced in late July.
“Our prime minister has already instructed the Foreign Ministry to set a date for the visit. We are looking for the best timing for the visit,” a diplomatic source said. “Our primary purpose is to draw the world’s attention to what is going on in Gaza and to push the international community to end the unfair embargo imposed by Israel.”