Turkish envoy demands Israel apologize for 2010 sea incident

Naci Sarıbaş 15.01.2012
Top Turkish envoy in Korea said Israel is to blame for strained Israeli-Turkish relations, and that those soured ties result from the 2010 Israeli attack on a flotilla of six civilian ships in neutral waters.

“We want an apology by the Israeli government on this issue and for this unacceptable action,” said Turkish Ambassador to Korea Naci Saribas in an interview with The Korea Times in December.

Israeli commandos attacked a flotilla of six ships, dubbed “Gaza Freedom Flotilla,” on May 31, 2010 in international waters which sought to break an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. In the ensuing melee, nine flotilla activists were killed and two dozen seriously injured. Ten Israeli commandos were also injured, one seriously.

Controversy has circled the incident ever since.

Accusations leveled against Israel for excessive force and counter-accusations against a Turkish human rights group for premeditated provocations and conducting a media stunt gone awry have circulated in the media since, with several documentaries being made. A U.N. Human Rights Council investigation also looked into the incident.

“A flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to civilians was stopped by Israel in international waters, where on the IDF military soldiers attacked civilians in international waters, and killed nine Turkish nationals,” Saribas said.

The U.N. report describes the nine activists being shot down at close range with live fire ammunition to the head, upper torso and back. The report states that none of the Israeli commandos were injured by gun fire.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan described the raid as “state terrorism” and Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the incident could lead to irreparable consequences in bilateral relations.

“The action by Israel is especially outrageous considering Turkey’s history as a refuge for Jews escaping tyranny, throughout history we have been a refuge for Jews, from the Inquisition to World War II,” he said.

Turkey was the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel in 1949, but recent relations between Israel and Turkey have been deteriorating. The flotilla incident sent ties on a downward spiral.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Israel Radio in September 2011 that the bad relations between Turkey and Israel would pass over time.

Barak said that the two nations are the two most important countries in the region, and that both countries “recognize reality.”

At a U.N. General Assembly meeting that same month, United States President Barack Obama asked Turkey’s Erdogan personally to mend fences with its ex-ally.

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