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Friday June 4, 2010 2:14 PM (EST+7)
Turkey may reduce ties with Israel to a minimum

Read more: aid convoy, flotilla, Gaza, blockade, Turkey, NATO, UN, Security Council,

ANKARA, June 4 (Reuters) - Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Friday Turkey may reduce its relations with Israel to a minimum after Israeli marines stormed a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza.

Arinc told NTV broadcaster that Turkey was assessing deals with Israel in the clearest sign yet that it may significantly scale back its ties with once close ally Israel.

He noted that many military and economic agreements had been made with Israel and these were now on the table for discussion.
We are serious about this subject, Arinc told the news channel in an interview.

We may plan to reduce our relations with Israel to a minimum, but to assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state, he said.

Israel and Turkey forged military and intelligence cooperation agreements in the 1990s, when both shared enemies and potential foes in the region.

The two countries have had a strong economic relationship, and bilateral trade reached $2.5 billion in 2009, with Turkey a good customer for Israel arms. Several projects in the pipeline in water, energy and agriculture are potentially worth several billions of dollars.

Turkey, a moderate, secular state, has long been Israel's only Muslim ally and trade partner, having recognised the Jewish state soon after its establishment in 1948.

Since the Islamist-leaning AK Party came to power in 2002 Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, has sought better relations with Iran and Arab neighbours, notably Syria.
The friendship with Israel began wearing thin after an Israeli offensive in Gaza in late 2008.

After that, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan became one of Israel's most trenchant critics, and there have been a series of diplomatic spats as ties became increasingly strained.

The killing of nine Turks aboard a Turkish flagged vessel during the Israeli raid on Monday has led to the worst crisis in relations between two countries that the United States sees as crucial allies in the Middle East.

Ankara, which had supported the pro-Palestinian convoy, has already cancelled joint military exercises, recalled its ambassador to Israel and successfully called for an emergency UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli action.

A funeral service for eight of the dead Turks was held in an Istanbul mosque on Thursday, and a service was being held for the ninth victim on Friday.

Turkey has emerged as a champion of the Palestinian cause, and is seeking to muster international support to convince Israel to end its naval blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

The United States is turning its back on Israel and it feels it has to. Even Russia turned its back on Israel. A society which imprisons itself to fear cannot grow, Arinc said.







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