Assad says Syria prepared to act against Israel’s siege of Gaza 7Jun10 June 8, 2010

Erdogan: Turkey can give Gaza everything it needs if Israel lifts siege; Turkey to Israel: If you have nothing to hide, accept international probe.

by Jack Khoury  -  Haaretz -  7 June 2010


Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that Damascus would stand by “every decision” made by Turkey to see Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, declaring: “We are not just about condemnation, we are about actions.”

At a joint press conference in Istanbul with Assad,Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his government was prepared to supply the Gaza Strip with “everything it needs”, adding that Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory must end immediately.

“What happened on the flotilla is a crime against humanity,” Erdogan said, referring to the Israel Navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship last week that left nine Turkish nationals dead.

“Palestine and Gaza are a giant prison and this situation cannot continue,” he said. “We can no longer remain silent and we will not be silent anymore regarding anything having to do with Gaza.

Assad added his own criticism of the flotilla raid, calling it not “just another crime, but a crime that exposes Israel’s true face.”

“We came to Istanbul to condemn Israel’s crime,” said Assad. “We are not just people who talks and issue declarations of condemnation. We are in favor of actions, and we declare that we will support every decision and every step that Turkey requests in order to break the blockade, including support of an international inquiry.”

“It is clear to the world that the peace activists arrived with a goal of peace,” added Assad. “The whole world, including Israel, knew in advance that it was a Turkish boat, sailing under a Turkish flag. Israel always commits crime, but it has always accused those it killed of terrorism. This time, Israel cannot accuse its victims of terror.”

Turkey to Israel: If you have nothing to hide, accept international probe

Earlier Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations – severely strained after the deadly raid – would depend upon Jerusalem’s acceptance of an international inquiry into the event.

“If Israel gives the green light to the formation of an international committee and is ready to answer questions of the committee, Turkish-Israeli relations will have a different course. Otherwise, Turkish-Israeli relations cannot be normalized,” Davutoglu told a press conference in Istanbul.

“If Israel thinks it has protected its national interests and rights, it should declare that it accepts formation of an international committee. Otherwise, it means that they are hiding some facts,” he added, speaking on the sidelines of a summit of a 20-member Eurasian security group, where Turkey was seeking to condemn Israel.

Israel has rejected the United Nations proposal, which would see a joint investigative committee comprising Washington, Ankara and Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his cabinet late Sunday to discuss the offer, but has made it clear that Israel prefers to conduct an internal probe.

The fallout from an Israel raid on a Turkish ship could bring forward elections in Turkey as the government moves to capitalize on a wave of popular support for its anti-Israel policies, according to press reports in the country on Monday.

Erdogan’s moderate Islamist AK party believes its harsh condemnation of Israel, which last week killed nine activists when it raided six protest boats led by the Turkish ship ‘Mavi Marmara’, could deliver a landslide in the polls.

Secular opposition politicians have condemned the government’ uncompromising response, which included the withdrawal of Turkey’s ambassador from Israel. They say Erdogan has gone too far in downgrading ties with Israel, traditionally one of Turkey’s closest regional allies.

Opposition lawmakers have also warned that Erdogan, who has courted Iran and said recently that Hamas was not a terrorist organization – a position that puts him in direct contradiction with Turkey’s NATO partners in the United State and Europe – risks alienating its allies.

Israeli commander: If Erdogan sails to Gaza, he will be declaring war

According to a Lebanese report on Saturday, Erdogan is considering traveling to Gaza aboard a Turkish navy vessel accompanying a new attempt by protest boats to break Israel’s maritime blockade.

A senior IDF commander said Monday Israel would view an attempt by Erdogan to sail to Gaza as an act of war.

“If he comes here with Turkish warships there can be no doubt that it would amount to a declaration of war,” Major-Genral (Res.) Uzi Dayan told Army Radio.

“We need to draw a clear line and say that whoever crosses it will not be boarded but sunk.”

But another top defense official, Amos Gilad, who heads the defense ministry’s policy unit, urged colleagues to tone down their denouncements of Erdogan rather than exacerbate the crisis with Turkey.

“Precisely because there is a crisis, we need to act with judgment and avoid calling a democratically elected leader a terrorist,” Gilad said.


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