Thursday, September 8, 2011
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Israel’s raid last year on an aid flotilla in the eastern Mediterranean Sea was “no different” under international law than what Somali pirates are doing in the Aden Gulf, Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said Thursday.
“Israel’s act in these waters is no different than the pirates in the Aden Gulf,” Yıldırım told the Hürriyet Daily News during a meeting in Istanbul, referring to the diplomatic feud between Israel and Turkey over Israeli commandos’ deadly raid May 31, 2010, on a Gaza-bound aid ship, killing nine Turks.
“Except for the 12-mile coastal shore, the waters are open to everyone’s use. No country has the right to prevent us from using our law-granted rights,” the minister added.
On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey “will apply all necessary preventive measures in order to ensure its navigational freedom,” noting that the country has the longest coastline bordering on the East Mediterranean.
Yıldırım on Thursday expressed agreement with Davutoğlu’s earlier comment that Israel does not have the right to implement a 20-mile zone of territorial waters along its shores.
“No one has the right to take over these waters. If they do, they will get their response from us,” the transportation minister said.
Referring to Israel’s demand for 20 miles of territorial waters due to the sea blockade of Gaza, Yıldırım said Israel has the right to only 12 nautical miles in the eastern Mediterranean. “The way that Israel is acting by not obeying international law is sea banditry,” he said, adding that Turkey would not accept the unlawful implementation.
“Stretching from Gibraltar Strait to the Gulf of İskenderun, 23 nations have the right to travel freely in [these] international waters,” Yıldırım said.
Accusing Israel of violating international maritime laws, the minister said “there is nothing we will do about the current situation” as long as Israel refuses to apologize for the raid on the Mavi Marmara aid ship.
Israel “will not apologize to Turkey” and will not lift its blockade on Gaza, Israeli Transportation Minister Israel Katz, said on Israeli public radio Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli Navy is “a strategic arm” of the state, adding that “this is a long and strong arm,” daily Hürriyet reported Thursday. His comments followed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement Tuesday that Turkish Navy ships would “show up” more frequently in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down the diplomatic crisis with Ankara on Thursday, saying the current dispute “will pass,” AFP reported. Describing the dispute over Gaza as “spilled milk,” Barak added, “We are the two countries that are most important to the West in the region.”
Turkey late last week downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel to the second-secretary level and suspended all military contracts after a long-awaited U.N. report on Israel’s flotilla raid was leaked to U.S. media on Sept. 1.