Turkey calls on Israel to accept probe into raid

Israel`s ambassador to the US has said his country rejects idea of probe.

Istanbul: Turkey`s foreign minister on Monday called on Israel to accept an international probe into the raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turks.

Ahmet Davutoglu said Israel should declare it agrees to the probe proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He said: "Otherwise, it means that they have something to hide."

Israel`s ambassador to the US has said Israel rejects the idea.

"The international community is facing a serious test. Does a country have the right to intercept a ship in international waters or not?" Davutoglu said at a news conference with the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They spoke on the sidelines of a summit of a 20-nation security group.

Turkey, which had a solid alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war that ended in early 2009, said it would reduce military and trade ties and shelved discussions of energy projects, including natural gas and fresh water shipments. It threatened to break ties unless Israel apologises for the raid last week.

"We are evaluating everything. It is up to Israel how our ties will continue," Davutoglu said. "Israel has to accept the consequences of its actions and be held accountable."

Davutoglu said "normalisation of Turkish-Israeli relations was out of the question," unless Israel conforms to international law. He said Turkey would pursue accountability in the killing of its nine citizens until the end.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi condemned the Israeli raid.

"We feel there was no justification for this aggression, and humanitarian assistance should not have been blocked the way it was," said Qureshi.

Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul also expressed solidarity with Turkey.

The ministers met on the opening day of a summit on security in Asia. Nine heads of state, including leaders of Iran and Syria, and Russia`s Prime Minister are scheduled to attend the two-day Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, or CICA.

Turkey said Israel, also a member, was invited but not expected to attend.

The flotilla raid prompted a worldwide outcry and growing demands that Israel ease or lift the blockade that has been in place since 2007 as a means of pressuring Hamas, which controls the territory. Under the blockade, most exports from Gaza are banned, further hurting its economy.

Turkey said it considers Gaza as well as the conflict in Afghanistan as test cases for the security group that includes Russia, Iran and South Korea. The group last met in 2006. Turkey is assuming the presidency of the group from Kazakhstan. Iraq and Vietnam will become new members on Tuesday morning before the heads of state convene.

Before dawn on Monday, the Israeli Navy fired on Palestinian divers off Gaza, and Palestinian medics said they retrieved four bodies. The Israeli military said its forces prevented an attack on Israeli targets, but did not explain further.

The incident came a week after Israeli commandos killed the nine Turks, including a 19-year-old boy who held dual Turkish-US citizenship, in international waters of the Mediterranean.

On Saturday, Israel commandeered another aid ship without incident. All 19 activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate, and crew were deported on Sunday.

Bureau Report

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