Turkey says demands from Israel unchanged in face of leaked UN report

Turkey says demands from Israel unchanged in face of leaked UN report

In this May 31, 2010 file photo the Mavi Marmara ship, headed to the Gaza Strip which was raided by Israeli naval commandos in a deadly attack, sails into the port of Ashdod, Israel.

September 01, 2011, Thursday/ 22:12:00/ CELİL SAĞIR

Turkey has vowed that its demands from Israel remain unchanged and that it is powerful enough to protect rights of its citizen in a first official reaction to a leaked United Nations panel report on Mavi Marmara incident.

The New York Times said on Thursday that it obtained the copy of 105-page UN report on the flotilla incident and that the report includes accusations both on Israel and Turkey.

Although The New York Times article does not report surprising findings, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu harshly reacted to the report and criticized the leak of the report before its official announcement.

Davutoğlu told a news conference in Paris on Thursday that he had talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and that he raised The New York Times issue with him. Davutoğlu added that UN’s Ban was also surprised to hear this.

Davutoğlu, who arrived in Paris on Thursday to attend the Libya meeting, was expected to fly to Poland to attend an EU gathering. But he changed his plans and will return to Ankara to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. on Friday to what he said present “Turkey’s position and reaction” to the report.

Davutoğlu reiterated that Turkey’s position regarding Israeli lethal raid into Mavi Marmara ship has been very clear since May 31 last year and vowed that Turkey is powerful enough to protect rights of its citizens “no matter who says what.”

Turkish foreign minister also added that there are many things in the report that make Israeli side uncomfortable. Davutoğlu downplayed the importance of report by suggesting that more important is what Israel did not realize with respect to Turkey’s demands.

Davutoğlu said Turkey’s demands – official apology, compensation to families of the victims and lifting Gaza blockade – firmly remain in place and that whatever the report finds, Israel did not meet Turkey’s demands.

The foreign minister said his “comprehensive statement” on the issue will largely focus on Israel’s failure to meet the demands of Turkey rather than the report itself.

United Nations panel report that is expected to be released on Friday has found that Israel’s naval blockade is legal and appropriate but harshly criticized what it called “unreasonable killing of nine civilians,” slamming Israel for using excessive force.

The report was delayed for several times to give a chance for reconciliation between Turkey and Israel but the UN decided to release the report on Friday after the former allies failed to bury their differences.

The 105-page report, which The New York Times obtained, found that Israeli commandos faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. The report, however, criticized Israeli soldiers for using the “excessive and unreasonable” force, saying the loss of life was unacceptable and the Israeli military’s later treatment of passengers was abusive.

Turkish-Israeli relations badly damaged after Israeli naval commandos stormed Mavi Marmara ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza to breach Israeli naval blockade, killing nine Turkish civilians, including an American citizen. Turkey demands an official apology and compensation to families of the victims. Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defense.

The report said that the UN findings noted that the panel did not have the power to compel testimony or demand documents, but instead had to rely on information provided by Israel and Turkey. Therefore, its conclusions can not be considered definitive in either fact or law.

Israel and Turkey earlier worked out some sort of joint statement which would include Israel’s “regret” rather than apology. Turkey rejects this and demands full apology. The report also recommends that Israel should make “an appropriate statement of regret” and pay compensation to families of the victims.

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law,” the report said, quoted by The New York Times.

The report also found that the Turkish government had some attempts to persuade the organizers to avoid an encounter with Israeli forces but that “more could have been done.”

The report criticized Israel for not issuing warning closer to the moment of action and said the Israeli naval commandos should have first turned to nonviolent options.

 “Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel,” the report said.

The report also criticized Israel’s subsequent treatment of passengers, saying it “included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.”

The New York Times reported that Turkey concluded in its report it submitted to the UN panel that Israeli commandos used live fire before landing, leading to death and injury; the Israelis said they had not. The Palmer committee said it was unable to determine who was right.

Davutoğlu told Today’s Zaman in an interview on Wednesday that the last chance for Israel to extend an apology of the lethal Israeli raid is the date when the UN report is released. He said Turkey will do whatever is required if Israel does not extend apology by Friday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated on July 23 that Turkey now intends to move on to “Plan B” with respect to Israeli apology conundrum, which will include a campaign against Israel to be carried out at UN institutions, legal action against senior Israeli figures in European courts, and military cooperation between Turkey and Israel being put on hold.

The total estimated value of the current military contracts that Turkey has awarded to Israeli companies amounts to $1.8 billion. This figure comprises a significant amount of the two nations' total annual trade volume of $2.6 billion. Turkey had cancelled dozens of military agreements, war games and military projects with Israel following the lethal Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara in May of last year.

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