Turkey bars Israeli military plane from airspace

By AFP – 28 June 2010
www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5itt9zJ0DFmQn4cWxOvN0Zael-f1A

ANKARA — Turkey barred an Israeli military plane from using its airspace after a deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships, a Turkish diplomat said Monday, with future flights to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Last month’s raid, in which Israeli commandos shot dead eight Turks and a dual US-Turkish citizen, delivered a huge blow to Turkey’s strained ties with the Jewish state, its estranged regional ally.

“Military planes are required to obtain overflight permission before each flight. One military plane was denied permission immediately after” the May 31 raid, the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat said that future requests for overflights would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, while civilian flights remain unaffected.

The Anatolia news agency Monday quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying that his country had closed its airspace to Israel after the raid on the aid flotilla.

Erdogan, who was speaking in Toronto after the G20 summit, gave no further details.

His remarks followed a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, carried by the Turkish press Monday, that an Israeli military plane taking an army delegation to Poland was denied permission to use Turkish airspace.

The Boeing 707 carrying more than 100 officers on their way to visit Auschwitz, had to follow an alternative route, the report said.

Ankara recalled its ambassador to Israel immediately after the raid, scrapped plans for three joint military exercises and said economic and defence links would be reduced to a “minimum level”.

Senior officials have said that Turkey expects Israel to apologise for the bloodshed, compensate the victims’ families, agree to an international inquiry and release three Turkish vessels seized in the operation.

Ankara also wants the crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip to be lifted.

Erdogan said ties with Israel would recover if the Jewish State met the demands.

“We have been very patient… and have said that meeting our demands would be an important step to turn this process into a positive one. But if they are not met, then we should not forget that our friendship has already been weakened,” Anatolia quoted Erdogan as saying.

“We have done whatever is necessary within national and international law, and we will continue to do so,” he added.

If Israel fails to meet the demands, Turkey will downgrade its diplomatic representation to the level of a charge d’affaires, a senior diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity earlier this month.

The diplomat also said Ankara would consider no new cooperation agreements with Israel, adding that existing deals were being reviewed.

Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defence when they came under attack from the activists during the raid, and has set up its commission with two foreign observers to investigate the operation.

Turkey and Israel built a strong alliance after a 1996 military cooperation deal, but the relationship has nosedived amid sharp criticism from Ankara over the Jewish state’s devastating war on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.


The complete IOA coverage of the Gaza Flotilla

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