Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Monday during a joint news conference with Nabil Shaath, a senior official from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, that they are jointly planning a campaign for recognition of Palestinian statehood by the UN General Assembly. He further stated that both countries had already reviewed voting patterns country by country during Abbas' visit to Turkey last month. Davutoğlu also promised that Turkey would continue its efforts until the end of the campaign and that it will work for the most votes possible.
Shaath's visit to Turkey came at a critical time when Turkey downgraded ties with Israel by expelling its ambassador and suspending all military agreements between the two countries as Israel refused to offer an apology for the naval raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla last year that resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.
Davutoğlu said Turkey's position on the recognition of Palestine as a state is very “clear and obvious.” “[To seek statehood at the UN] comes as a late decision. The Palestinian people are completely right in demanding their own state, sovereignty and recognition by the world similar to other honorable nations, and their demands must absolutely be endorsed,” Davutoğlu said.
The US has indicated it will veto any Palestinian statehood vote in the absence of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Palestinians hope a UN vote in their favor will isolate Israel and put pressure on the Israelis to withdraw from occupied territories.
“Recognition of a Palestinian state is not a favor for the Palestinians, it is the Palestinian people's most natural right and our debt to them,” Davutoğlu said. “It is time to pay the debt.”
Davutoğlu said the second issue he discussed with Shaath was the latest situation in Turkish-Israeli relations and the decisions Turkey has made. He said Shaath thanked Turkey for its determinant position against Israel.
The UN report on the flotilla labeled the May 31, 2010 Israeli raid “excessive and unreasonable” but also claimed that due to Israeli security concerns, the blockade of Gaza is legal. The UN panel also laid blame on Turkey and the flotilla's organizers as their actions played a role in the deaths. The 105-page report said the killing of eight Turkish activists and an American was “unacceptable.”
On Friday, Turkey downgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel to the level of second secretary and gave the ambassador and other high-level diplomats until Wednesday to leave the country. In other measures against Israel, Turkey suspended military agreements, promised to back legal action against Israel by the raid victims' families and vowed to take steps to ensure freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.
Davutoğlu said keeping Gaza and the West Bank under occupation is already illegal and that it is unacceptable to see a blockade of an illegally occupied territory as legal. On Saturday, Davutoğlu said Turkey would start procedures to challenge Israel's naval blockade of Gaza in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. He said that in order to end the illegal blockade of Gaza, Turkey will continue its legal endeavors in the international sphere. Noting that Shaath was briefed on the steps Turkey will take with regards to Israel, Davutoğlu said he had also shared his views over a UN General Assembly decision to take Israel to the ICJ.
Davutoğlu said Turkey is wrapping up its efforts to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade in the ICJ and that he has received the support of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).