Bülent Yıldırım, who heads the Turkish Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), said the Mavi Marmara will not be able to make the trip to Gaza for technical reasons. There is too much damage to the ship, which was raided by Israeli commandos during last year's flotilla on May 31, 2010, and reparations are now unlikely to be finished by the time the international flotilla will set sail to Gaza, which is expected to take place later this month.
Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed during the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara, bringing once-solid Turkish-Israeli relations to a standstill.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who earlier said the government would not interfere with a civilian initiative, said this month that the organizers should wait to see how an Egyptian decision to lift the blockade of Gaza and a Palestinian reconciliation deal will affect the situation in Gaza.
Yıldırım, speaking at a press conference in İstanbul, said the İHH decision not to send the Mavi Marmara to Gaza had nothing to do with the government, emphasizing that it is a purely technical decision. “There is absolutely no obstruction by the government,” he said.
Flotilla organizers had originally planned to sail around the first anniversary of the Israeli raid before dawn on May 31, 2010.
"We did not want the flotilla to be postponed again," Yıldırım said at the press conference. "When we fix the Mavi Marmara, our journey will continue. I hope it will not take a long time."
An İHH spokesman, on the other hand, had signaled this week that the group might cancel plans to travel to Gaza given new developments in the region, particularly the crisis in neighboring Syria.
Israel has warned that it will not allow any more ships to break its naval blockade, and said without providing details that security forces have adopted new tactics since last years' raid in an effort to limit casualties.
Despite the Mavi Marmara's absence, the İHH will still be a part of the international group that organized the Gaza mission, Yıldırım also said, noting that activists from his group would board other ships in the flotilla, which includes an American boat, a 40-member Canadian ship and a cargo vessel organized by activists from Greece, Sweden and Norway.
Some of the boats are expected to depart from Greece, and Yıldırım acknowledged that Greece's financial problems and widespread anger there over tough new austerity measures had posed a challenge to flotilla preparations.
"There are some problems and crises in European countries, so it might be delayed a few days," he said.