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Turkish PM saw Gaza raid as “grounds for war”

Reuters

September 12, 2011 | 9:25 am

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attends a welcoming ceremony in Ankara on Sept. 8.  Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan attends a welcoming ceremony in Ankara on Sept. 8. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan saw “grounds for war” with Israel last year after a deadly raid on a Turkish ship headed for Gaza, according to a transcript of a recent interview.

State news agency Anatolia released late on Sunday what it said was an original Turkish-language transcript of an interview Erdogan gave to Al Jazeera television last week. It included elements not broadcast as well as original wording for sensitive comments that had been transmitted only in Arabic translation.

Among previously unpublished elements, Erdogan said Israel’s deadly raid last year on a Turkish ship headed for Gaza would have justified going to war: “The attack that took place in international waters did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was grounds for war. However, befitting Turkey’s greatness, we decided to act with patience,” he said.

The transcript in Turkish from Anatolian, apparently provided by Erdogan’s office, also gave the following account of the prime minister’s response to a question on what Turkey would do to ensure free passage for its ships in the Mediterranean.

“Right now, without a doubt, the primary duty of Turkish navy ships is to protect its own ships,” Erdogan said.

“This is the first step. And we have humanitarian aid that we want to carry there. This humanitarian aid will not be attacked any more, as it was the case with Mavi Marmara.”

Turkey has downgraded diplomatic ties with Israel and halted defense-related trade after the Jewish state’s confirmation last week that it would not apologize for the raid on the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 in which nine Turks were killed.

Turkey and Israel had tried to mend fences before the publication of a U.N. report two weeks ago, which deemed the blockade of the Gaza Strip a legal means to stem the flow of arms to Palestinians.

Israel has said it will continue the blockade and that it wants to ease tensions with its former ally .

The prospect of a showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow ally of the United States, rattled Israelis already on edge over political upheaval in the Arab world and Iran’s nuclear program. Washington has appealed for restraint.

Erdogan , seeking to expand Turkey’s regional influence, will travel to Cairo on Monday as part of a tour of three Arab countries likely to be scrutinised by Israel, whose once warm ties with both Muslim states have been shaken.

Reporting by Jon Burch; Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Alastair Macdonald

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