Israel rebuffs Turkey's demanded apology
JERUSALEM - Daily News with wires | 7/5/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Israel brushes off Turkey’s demanded apology for the deadly raid on the Turkish-led Gaza aid flotilla, declaring that it will never say sorry for defending itself.
Israel brushed off Turkey’s demanded apology over the deadly raid on the Turkish-led Gaza aid flotilla, declaring that it will never say sorry for defending itself.
"Israel will never apologize for defending its citizens," the official told Agence France-Presse news agency, echoing remarks made last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Of course, we regret the loss of life, but it was not the Israeli side that initiated the violence," he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has vowed Ankara would sever diplomatic ties with Israel unless it apologized over the operation that left eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent dead.
But Israeli officials reacted angrily to Turkey's threats. "When you want an apology, you don't use threats or ultimatums," Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said. "Everything leads us to believe that Turkey has another agenda in mind," he said, without giving further details.
Davutoğlu said over the weekend that "relations will be broken" unless Israel apologizes for the May 31 attack or admits the raid was unjust. “Israelis have three options: They will either apologize or acknowledge an international-impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off,” he told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review early Sunday in an interview on his plane returning from Kyrgyzstan.
[HH] Flight threat
Turkey has closed its airspace to all Israeli military flights in response to the raid, Davutoğlu said, adding the closure could extend to civilian flights as well. The threat prompted a blunt response from Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz.
"If that happens we will take appropriate action and obviously ban Turkish airlines," Katz told public radio, warning that a ban on civilian flights would have wider ramifications for Turkey.
"It would be a violation of European aviation regulations; it would harm all the companies that fly to Israel, not just Israeli companies," he said.
Israel has consistently refused to apologize in the wake of the raid, which has seen once-close relations with Turkey reach crisis point.
On May 31, Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of six ships carrying aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip. Israel says its commandos only used force to defend themselves after being ambushed. But those on board the ship insist the troops opened fire as soon as they landed.
"Our young servicemen have the right to defend themselves when their lives are in imminent danger," the Israeli government official said. "They were compelled to defend themselves from a mob that tried to lynch them."
Katz said Israel would not free the Mavi Marmara for now.
"Despite the Turkish request, we are not releasing it for now. It is a boat that was carrying terrorists," he said. "They need to understand, we don't respond to threats."
The latest confrontation between Ankara and Tel Aviv comes just days after Davutoğlu held secret talks in Europe with an Israeli cabinet minister to try and ease the feud sparked by the deadly raid.