Monday, September 12, 2011

Erdoğan: Mavi Marmara raid was ‘cause for war'

Israel's 2010 raid on a Turkish-owned aid ship in international waters, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American, was a “cause for war,” but Turkey acted with patience, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

“The May 31, 2010 Mavi Marmara event and the attack that took place in international waters did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was a cause for war. However, befitting Turkey's grandness, we decided to act with patience,” Erdoğan said, according to excerpts taken from an interview the prime minister gave to Al Jazeera and published by the Anatolia news agency late on Sunday.

Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey's warships will be seen more often in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the 2010 raid took place. He said last week that Turkish warships will escort aid ships headed to the Gaza Strip, currently blockaded by Israel.

Turkey has imposed sanctions on Israel after it refused to apologize for the killings, expelling the Israeli ambassador and suspending military agreements with the Jewish state. It has also said it would take measures to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean. “We will see Turkish ships, I mean military ships, more often in international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially in the exclusive economic zone [of Turkey],” Erdoğan told Al Jazeera.

He also said Israel “condemns itself to isolation” by refusing to offer Turkey an apology and not lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Erdoğan, who begins a tour of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya on Monday, had earlier made it clear that he wants to proceed to Gaza from Egypt's Rafah border crossing, but Egypt is reportedly reluctant to let the Gaza trip happen. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Sunday that Erdoğan's itinerary will be limited to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

“I know my brothers in Gaza are waiting for us. I am in yearning for Gaza as well. … Sooner or later, God willing, I will go to Gaza,” Erdoğan said. But he added that he did not want “unnecessary tensions” to break out over his desire to visit Gaza. “We are discussing this with our Egyptian brothers,” he said.

‘Assad losing legitimacy'

During the interview, Erdoğan also reiterated his criticism of the Syrian regime for its bloody crackdown on anti-regime protests and said President Bashar al-Assad's administration is about to lose its legitimacy. “The administration is unfortunately acting oppressively. The blood of the oppressed is being spilled and thousands of people are in jail as political prisoners,” Erdoğan said.

“Political leaders ought to establish their future on the basis of justice, not on atrocity and blood. We advise all Middle Eastern countries to strengthen democracy, human rights and freedoms,” he said. When asked whether he still speaks with Assad by phone, Erdoğan said: “I am not calling him anymore. But if he calls me, I'll talk to him.”

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