Turkish foreign minister: Israeli raid on Gaza aid flotilla 'like 9/11' for his country
Tuesday, June 1, 2010; 4:42 PM
With anger and sarcasm, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lashed out Tuesday at Israel's attack on a Gaza aid flotilla and by extension the Obama administration's reluctance to immediately condemn the assault that left at least nine civilians dead.
"Psychologically, this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey," Davutoglu told reporters over breakfast in Washington before going to the State Department to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He referred to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, in which al-Qaeda hijackers used commandeered U.S. airliners to kill nearly 3,000 people.
Davutoglu displayed a map showing that the attack took place 72 nautical miles off the coast of Israel, far beyond the 12-mile sovereign border. He said that the "Israelis believe they are above any law" but that they would be held to account by Turkey and the international community. He likened the actions of the Israeli government to "pirates off the coast of Somalia," not a civilized nation, and ridiculed Israeli claims that some in the flotilla were linked to al-Qaeda.
Members of the European Parliament were on board, he noted, adding archly that he didn't know that "al-Qaeda had infiltrated the European Parliament."
Davutoglu had a previously scheduled meeting with Clinton to discuss Iran's nuclear program, but he said he diverted his plane Monday to New York once he heard of the attack so he could join discussions at the United Nations. He expressed dismay that it took 11 hours, well into the night, to reach an agreement on a U.N. statement, largely because of U.S. efforts to water it down to avoid pinning full blame on Israel and any direct call for an international investigation.
But he said that in Turkey's view, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has full authority under the statement to order an international probe. He noted that the incident took place in international waters so Israel has no right to declare it can conduct its own inquiry.
"We will not be silent about this," he said. "We expect the United States to show solidarity with us. . . . I am not very happy with the statements from the United States yesterday."
Davutoglu noted that Israel and Turkey have long had close relations and said he had planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to discuss relaunching indirect peace talks with Syria. Netanyahu canceled his visit to Washington to return to Israel to deal with the crisis.
To resolve the crisis in the relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, Davutoglu said Israel must make a "clear and formal apology," accept an independent investigation, release all passengers immediately, return the bodies of all dead passengers and lift what he called the "siege of Gaza." If these demands are not quickly met, he said that Turkey will demand further action from the U.N. Security Council.
He added that Turkey will also bring the matter before NATO. "Citizens of member states were attacked by a country that was not a member of NATO," he said. "We think that should be discussed in NATO."
The deadly incident off the coast of Gaza has also complicated the administration's push to win final U.N. approval of new sanctions against Iran. Davutoglu made it clear that Turkey, a member of the council, is in no mood to entertain any discussion of fresh sanctions.
"Diplomacy, diplomacy, more diplomacy" is needed, he said.