Turkey closes airspace to some Israeli flights

Last Updated: Monday, June 28, 2010 - 17:22

Ankara: Turkey has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights following a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, the Turkish prime minister and officials said Monday. An official said civilian commercial flights were not affected.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Toronto that Turkey imposed a ban on Israeli flights after the May 31 raid on a Turkish ship that was part of a six-vessel international aid flotilla, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. The prime minister, who is in Canada to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major industrial and developing nations, did not elaborate.

A Turkish government official said, however, that the ban was for Israeli military flights and that commercial flights were not affected. It was not a blanket ban and each flight request would be assessed case-by-case, the official added. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules that bar officials from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

On Sunday, Israel`s Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that Turkey had not allowed a plane carrying Israeli military officers, en route to a tour of memorial sites in Auschwitz, Poland, to fly over Turkish airspace.

The transport plane, with more than 100 officers on board, was forced to make a detour, the paper said.

The Israeli military "refrained from responding officially to the event so not to exacerbate the rift in relations," the newspaper added.

The Israeli prime minister`s office had no comment on Erdogan`s statements.

Eight Turks and a Turkish-American were killed in the raid that drew Turkish outrage and widespread international condemnation.

The aid ships were sailing to Gaza to break an Israeli blockade that it said it imposed to keep weapons and other military components out of the hands of Gaza militants who have attacked Israel with bombs, rockets and mortars for years.

Israel insists troops involved in the deadly raid acted in self-defense after being attacked by some of the activists on board.

Turkey, which had a close alliance with Israel until the three-week Gaza war, which ended in early 2009, withdrew its ambassador and canceled joint military drills in response to the raid. It has said it will not return its ambassador and will reduce military and trade ties unless Israel apologizes for the raid. It also wants Israel to return the seized aid ships, agree to an international investigation and offer compensation for the victims.

"Up to now, we have done whatever is necessary within the rules of law — whether national or international — and we will continue to do so," Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying, adding that ties with Israel could return to normal if the Jewish state meets Turkey`s demands.

"We are not interested in making a show. We don`t desire such a thing and we have been very patient in the face of these developments," he said, according to Anatolia.

Israel has objected to an international inquiry into the operation and has set up its own investigative commission that includes two foreign observers.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, June 28, 2010 - 17:22

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