Turkey says it will cut ties if Israel doesn’t apologize


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Turkey’s foreign minister has threatened to cut ties with Israel unless it apologizes for its deadly interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla, a Turkish newspaper reported.

“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,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Sunday.

Davutoglu offered the options when he met last week in Brussels with Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s industry, trade and labor minister, the newspaper reported.

Nine Turkish citizens were killed in violence that began when Israeli naval commandos boarded the Marmara in international waters on May 31 to divert the Turkish-flagged ship to Israel’s Ashdod port. The boat was trying to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza.

In the aftermath, Turkey has recalled its ambassador and canceled several joint military exercises, as well as banned Israeli military airplanes from using Turkish airspace.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have been quoted as saying that Israel will not apologize for its role in the death of the passengers.

Davutoglu also said that the ban on flying in Turkish airspace could be expanded to include civilian aircraft, Hurriyet reported.

“If steps are not taken [by Israel], the process of isolation will continue," the minister said. "We know what we want. We are right in all means. We will strictly follow [this path] until our demands are met."

Meanwhile, the Turkish Defense Ministry informed Israel’s military over the weekend that it would not participate in an annual naval search-and-rescue exercise scheduled for next month, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The Reliant Mermaid exercise has been held for the past 10 years with the Israeli, Turkish and American navies for the last 10 years.

Also, the Haaretz business magazine, The Marker, reported Monday that Turkish Airlines has cut its weekly flights to and from Israel in half due to decreased Israeli tourism.

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