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Turkey accuses Israel of 'state terror', recalls envoy over fleet raid

Turkey today accused Israel of "state terror" and recalled its ambassador after a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships by Israeli forces left at least nine dead, most of them Turkish nationals.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Ankara
UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2010 10:54 PM IST

Turkey on Monday accused Israel of "state terror" and recalled its ambassador after a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships by Israeli forces left at least nine dead, most of them Turkish nationals.

"It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror," Erdogan said in live televised remarks ahead of his departure from Chile to Turkey, cutting short his Latin American tour.

"International law has been trampled underfoot," he added. "This attack has clearly shown once again that the Israeli government does not want peace in the region."

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced that the Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv, Oguz Celikkol, was summoned back to Ankara and plans for three joint military exercises with Israel had also been scrapped.

Turkey has called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, where it holds a non-permanent seat, he added.

Erdogan said that his country had also also called for emergency NATO talks over the Israeli raid. An alliance spokesman said the meeting would take place Tuesday.

Turkey's strong reaction marked a new low in the once-flourishing bilateral ties with Israel and came as the Jewish State announced that most of the bloodshed ocurred on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish passenger ship carrying more than 600 people, and that most of the victims were Turkish.

"By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives," a Turkish foreign ministry statement said.

"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a flagrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.... Israel will have to bear the consequences of this behaviour," it said.

Turkish army chief Ilker Basbug, who cut short a visit to Egypt and returned to Turkey Monday, told his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi in a telephone conversation that the use of military force against the aid ships was "grave and unacceptable", an army statement said.

Basbug also said that the Israeli raid "had led to very serious consequences", it added.

President Abdullah Gul said Turkey was demanding that Israel "swiftly carry out all necessary inquiries on the issue and punish those responsible."

Israeli ambassador Gabby Levy was summoned to the foreign ministry as thousands took to the streets across Turkey to protest the assault that came atop already deteriorating ties between the two former allies.

Turkey asked for a detailed report on the fate of all people who were aboard the vessels, a Turkish diplomat told AFP, adding that they included nationals from 33 countries.

Levy was also told that the Turkish passengers and the wounded should be repatriated to Turkey in the shortest possible time and the vessels released, he said.

Some 10,000 people gathered at the central Taksim square in the country's biggest city Istanbul, burning Israeli flags and calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, an AFP photographer said.

"Damn Israel!", "A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, revenge, revenge!" chanted the protestors, carrying Turkish and Palestinian flags.

A crowd of some 1,000 people protested outside Levy's residence in Ankara, shouting "Damn Israel" and reciting prayers.

The Israeli navy stormed the flotilla of six vessels as it sailed to Gaza in a bid to break the blockade of the impoverished enclave, in place since 2007, and deliver some 10,000 tonnes of supplies.

The Israeli army initially said more than 10 passengers were killed but then revised the death toll down to nine.

Israeli military and commandos involved in the operation also said they had only responded with force after being attacked with knives, clubs and even live fire, an allegation that the Turkish prime minister denied as baseless.

Muslim-majority Turkey has been a close ally of Israel since 1996 but relations between the two countries have taken a sharp downturn since Israel's devastating war on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009, which Turkey has vehemently criticised.

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