The Turkish government has announced it would suspend diplomatic relations with Israel at ambassadorial level and expel senior Israeli diplomats posted in Ankara. Foreign Minister Ahmad Davutoglu said military cooperation with the Jewish state would also be halted. Davutoglu said at a press conference in Ankara that all officials above the rank of second secretary would have to leave Israel’s Embassy in Ankara and that all senior Turkish diplomats posted in Tel Aviv would also been withdrawn. Military agreement between the two countries – including issues such as training and defense cooperation – would be frozen.
The decision comes in response to the May 2010 Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara which was seeking to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish citizens were killed in the raid. “It is time Israel pays a price,” Davutoglu said. Despite repeated Turkish demands, Israel has refused to apologize or pay compensation, arguing that it had a right to search and capture the vessel.
Davutoglu’s announcement came after the ‘New York Times’ published a leak of the long-awaited UN investigative report originally intended to narrow the differences between Turkey and Israel. Although the Palmer Report urges Israel to express regret and pay compensation and labels the manner of the boarding of the ship by IDF soldiers “excessive and unreasonable” , it rejects Turkey’s arguments that the naval blockade of Gaza was illegal. The UN panel said it was lawful in view of missile attacks on Israel from Gaza, and added that on boarding the Mavi Marmara, the Israeli soldiers “faced significant, organized and violent resistance… requiring them to use force for their own protection.”