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Turkey-Israel ties fall to new low in response to UN flotilla report

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The UN report, due to be formally released today but leaked yesterday by The New York Times, surprised many by declaring Israel's blockade of Gaza as legal. While it criticized Israeli commandos for using "excessive and unreasonable" force in halting the mainly Turkish flotilla, it requested merely that Israel "express regret" for the deaths and pay unspecified reparations to the families, the Times reported.

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” the report says in its opening paragraphs. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

Turkey is particularly upset by the conclusion that Israel’s naval blockade is in keeping with international law and that its forces have the right to stop Gaza-bound ships in international waters, which is what happened in the 2010 episode. That conclusion oversteps the mandate of the four-member panel appointed by the United Nations secretary general and is at odds with other United Nations decisions, Turkey argued.

Turkey and Israel had developed strong ties over the past two decades, with trade worth $3 billion a year and significant military cooperation. But the 2009 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas drew condemnation from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sparking a deterioration of relations on numerous fronts.

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