Turkey mulls harder line if Israel refuses to apologise

AFP , Tuesday 26 Jul 2011

Turkey is preparing to harden its attitude towards Israel over its refusal to apologise for last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, official sources say

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Reuters photo)

The Israeli government has to date failed to either say sorry or compensate families of the nine activists who were killed in May last year in a commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-owned ferry which was leading the convoy.

Speaking after it emerged a UN report into the incident had been delayed yet again, a senior source in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government said that Turkey was ready to toughen its line towards its former ally.

"The ball is in the Israeli court. If it decides to apologise, then everything's fine. If not, then we will have to resort to Plan B," the Turkish diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Among the measures under consideration are moves to bring legal action against the Israeli commandos who took part in the raid or further chill already frosty diplomatic ties.

Turkey, which recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv after the raid and still only has a charge d'affaires in place, could further downgrade its diplomatic representation and withhold agreement when Israel wants to name a new envoy to Ankara, the source added.

Turkey would strive to have "the Palestinian voice" heard more in international organisations, particularly at the United Nations where Palestinians are pushing for full membership.

The Turkish government would also try to take a more active role in efforts to reconcile the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has been behind dozens of anti-Israeli attacks and refuses to recognise the Jewish state's right to exist.

Erdogan has also recently raised the idea of paying a visit to Gaza -- in a move press reports suggested would take place if Israel continues to refuse to apologise.

Visiting the Hamas-run Gaza Strip would most likely further exacerbate tensions with the Jewish state.

Israel's cabinet is understood to be split over the issue of an apology with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dead set against, while Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor are in favour.

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