Turkey threatens to cut ties with Israel

July 5, 2010 at 2:19 PM
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ANKARA, Turkey, July 5 (UPI) -- Turkey could sever diplomatic ties with Israel over an Israeli raid that killed nine people on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, an official said.

Turkey's foreign minister, Agmet Davutoglu, said the break could be avoided only if Israel apologizes or accepts the outcome of an international inquiry into the May 31 incident, the BBC reported Monday.

Israel "will either apologize or acknowledge an international, impartial inquiry and its conclusion," Davutoglu said. "Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off."

Israeli officials say there's no reason for an apology, maintaining their commandos were met with violence when they boarded the lead ship as it tried to break through an Israeli blockade and fired their weapons in self-defense.

Turkey has also demanded compensation for the victims' families.

Davutoglu said a blanket ban on all Israeli military aircraft using Turkish airspace has been instituted.

Meanwhile, a group of Muslim scholars and leaders encouraged Muslims to vacation in Turkey this summer to offset the estimated $400 million loss caused by Israel's boycott of the country, The Jerusalem Post reported.

In a statement issued in mid-June, the group praised Turkey's position concerning Israel. It also lauded Turkey's efforts to "lift the siege on Gaza and the Palestinian people."

The statement called on Arabs and Muslims "planning to travel to Europe, the U.S. or elsewhere, to choose Turkey -- where mosques and historic monuments of ancient and natural beauty exist -- as a vacation destination instead."

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