Turkey’s PM says Israel should be punished

By Pinar Aydinli and Tulay Karadeniz

ANKARA (BestGrowthStock) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called Tuesday for Israel to be punished for storming a Turkish aid ship and said “nothing would ever be the same” in relations between the two allies.

Turkey was infuriated by the killing of nine people, including four Turks, during the Israeli assault Monday to stop a convoy of six vessels delivering aid to the Gaza Strip, and 368 Turks were still being held in Israel.

“Israel’s behavior should definitely, definitely be punished,” a spirited Erdogan told a meeting of his parliamentary deputies broadcast on live television.

“No one should try to test Turkey’s patience,” he said.

“The time has come for the international community to say ‘enough’,” he said. “The United Nations must not stop at its resolution condemning Israel, but stand behind its resolution.”

The Turkish leader said he had spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and would deliver the same message when he speaks to U.S. President Barack Obama in a telephone call later Tuesday.

“Israel should lift the inhumane embargo on Gaza right away. Killing innocent people is a wicked recklessness,” he said.

Erdogan has become popular throughout the Islamic world for his trenchant criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. With an election due by July next year, Erdogan could bolster support for his Islamist-leaning AK Party.

ESTRANGED ALLIES

Speaking in Washington, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Israeli action damaged wider Middle East peace efforts.

“How can we rely that we have a real counterpart who wants peace even if they do not respect the citizens of a friendly country?” he told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington. “If they don’t act, how can we convince Syria or other countries in the region that they want peace?”

Relations between Turkey and Israel have deteriorated sharply because of Erdogan’s stand over the Palestinians over the past year, and there was some expectation that the Turkish leader could finally break an increasingly awkward alliance.

Erdogan demanded the release of Turkish nationals and the ships being held in Israel, but stopped short of announcing immediate measures, while making it clear that the Israel-Turkey relationship had been irreparably damaged.

“Today is the beginning of a new age. Things will never be the same again,” he declared. “We will never turn our back on the Palestinians.”

Monday, Turkey recalled its envoy to Israel, canceled joint military exercises, and successfully called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to condemn the Jewish State’s actions.

Israel and Turkey have had a close military alliance and economic relationship for more than a decade. Senior ministers and military chiefs from both countries have been in contact since the crisis erupted.

But Energy Minister Taner Yildiz signaled ties were under review.

“We have examined the dimensions of our energy cooperation with Israel, a strategic decision may be taken on the prime minister’s instruction,” Yildiz told reporters.

Bilateral trade reached $2.5 billion in 2009, with Turkey buying military hardware from the Jewish state.

Aside from the bilateral trade, there are plans for projects in energy, agriculture and water between Turkey and Israel that would involve billions of dollars.

But Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said the diplomatic storm would not affect the planned delivery of Israel-made Heron drone aircraft to Turkey. Earlier this year, the two countries wrapped up the purchase of 10 Heron drones in a deal worth $180 million.

Stock Market Analysis

(Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Turkey’s PM says Israel should be punished