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Wednesday June 2, 2010 4:34 PM (EST+7)
Turkey calls on Israel to end blockade to restore ties

Read more: Turkey, Israeli relations, Gaza blockade, flotilla

ANKARA, June 2 (Reuters/Tulay Karadeniz) - Turkey demanded Israel lift its blockade of Gaza as a condition for normalising relations but added it was time that calm replaced anger after Israel's deadly raid on a Turkish-backed aid flotilla.

The future of ties with Israel will depend on the attitude of Israel, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday on his return from the United States.

I see no reason for not normalizing the ties, once the Gaza blockade is lifted and our citizens are released.

Turkey cancelled joint military exercises and recalled its ambassador from Israel after the flotilla incident on Monday.

Davutoglu said three of nine activists killed when Israeli commandos stormed ships trying to take aid to Gaza had been identified as Turks, while a fourth had a Turkish credit card.

He was speaking as Israel's navy prepared to block another aid ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, on course to enter Gazan waters on Wednesday.

Davutoglu spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday to discuss the diplomatic crisis, and had been in New York a day earlier for a UN Security Council meeting called by Turkey to pass a resolution condemning Israel's actions.

Turkey was awaiting the repatriation on Wednesday of hundreds of activists from Israel, after sending civilian and military aircraft to bring them home.

I told Mrs. Clinton on the phone that we would review all ties with Israel if our citizens were not released within 24 hours, which is tonight, Davutoglu said, though he noted two were too badly wounded to travel.

Washington faces difficulties stepping into a crisis between two heavyweight military powers whose friendship has helped US diplomacy in the Middle East.

Davutoglu called for the United Nations to investigate the incident, and was scathing about the prospects for an Israeli probe.

We want a detailed investigation by United Nations into Israel's rogue state actions, Davutoglu said. What can be expected from an investigation run by a state in criminal status. It's Israel's actions that need to be investigated.

A once-close ally of Israel, Turkey became a harsh critic after the Israeli offensive in Gaza in December 2008.

But the killings of Turks on a Turkish-flagged ship in international waters has brought the strained relationship between the Jewish state and Turkey's Islamist-leaning government close to breaking point.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has become one of the most popular figures in the Islamic world by championing the Palestinian cause.

With polls due in Turkey by July next year, Erdogan's strong stand in foreign policy could win support for his AK Party.

Protests have been held outside Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul since Monday.

It's time that calm replaced anger in reaction to Israel, people should avoid impulsive behavior, Davutoglu said.

The security of families of Israeli diplomats, Israeli tourists and Jewish Turks is our nation's honour. We will be making sure they are safe.






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