Turkey expels Israeli ambassador

Turkey is downgrading diplomatic relations after Israel refused an ultimatum to apologize for the Marmara incident.

Relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated to an all-time low. Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu called a press conference this afternoon, at which he announced the steps Turkey was taking following Israel's refusal to issue an official apology for the events aboard the Mavi Marmara in May last year. Eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American were killed in that incident by Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel that was aiming to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"Turkey will reduce its level of diplomatic representation in Israel to that of second secretary," Davutoğlu said. This mean that Turkey is recalling its ambassador to Ankara, and is not even replacing him with a consul, but with a second secretary, a lower diplomatic rank. Israel's ambassador to Turkey will be required to return home. The Turkish foreign minister further announced that all military agreements between Israel and Turkey were suspended. "Israel is the side responsible for the situation," he continued. "Turkey will not back down until Israel agrees to all our demands."

Today, the Palmer report on the Marmara incident, drawn up by a UN commission headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, is due to be published. Last night, Turkey said that its demand for an apology from Israel remained in force, despite the leaking of the Palmer report in the "New York Times". Davutoğlu sharply criticized the leaking of the report before its official release date.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met Davutoğlu in Paris at The International Conference in Support of the New Libya. Clinton asked Davutoğlu not weaken his country's fragile relations with Israel further in the wake of the publication of the Palmer report. According to Turkish daily "Hurriyet", Davutoğlu told Clinton that Turkey would not retreat from its demand for an apology from Israel, and for payment of compensation to the families of those killed on the Marmara as called for by the Palmer report.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 2, 2011

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011

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