Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Saturday his country’s intent to refer the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade to The Hague, adding a criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama’s position regarding Israel’s 2010 of a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla.
Speaking a convention of businessmen in the central Turkish city of Kayseri broadcast live on Turkey’s state news channel TRT Erdogan vowed to continue the legal struggle for justice for the nine people killed in the raid.
“We will carry this struggle to The Hague and Erdogan criticizes Obama,” the Turkish premier said, criticizing Turkish opposition leaders for what he described as “acting as advocates for Israel.”
Erdogan was also deeply critical of the United States position on the Mavi Marmara incident, pointing out that he had to point out to Obama how the attack had left nine Turks dead from wounds inflicted by 35 bullets mostly fired from close range, one of them an American passport holder.
“I asked President Obama whether the reason he showed no interest in one of his nationals being killed was because [the victim] was [ethnically] Turkish – he didn’t reply,” said Erdogan.
Today’s Zaman reports:
A warning by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Israel reiterating his country’s firmness on ensuring freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean sent shockwaves throughout the region after it was interpreted as a prelude to a naval confrontation with its former ally.
But officials in Ankara made clear on Friday that Erdoğan’s remarks during an interview with Al Jazeera were quoted out of context. Some of his quotes were compiled later both by Al Jazeera and Reuters in a way that implied these quotes had followed each other, the same officials said. “Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying by Reuters in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.
“From now on, we will not let these ships be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdoğan was also quoted as saying by Reuters.
In the Turkish version of the text of the interview provided by the Anatolia news agency, however, Erdoğan, in response to a question on ensuring the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean, says: “At the moment, no doubt, Turkish warships are first of all liable to protect their own ships. This is the first step. And there is humanitarian aid which we will extend. Our humanitarian assistance will no longer be attacked as happened in the case of the Mavi Marmara.”
A senior government official speaking to Today’s Zaman on Friday said Erdoğan’s remarks cannot be interpreted to mean that Turkey has been preparing to send humanitarian aid ships to the region that will be escorted by Turkish warships. “We have put forth a principle by saying that we will ensure the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean and that this field is not an Israeli playground.
As long as Israel does not interfere in the freedom of navigation, we do not plan on sending any warships to escort humanitarian aid ships,” the official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Today’s Zaman. “The misquoted remarks suggest that we have been readying to provide a warship to escort each humanitarian aid ship. This is not the case. However, Turkey will protect its citizens’ rights in the event of any interference in international waters,” the official added.