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Turkey, Israel Still ‘Friends’ Amid Flotilla Dispute, Gul Says

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Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his nation and Israel are still “friends,” even after the Israeli military raid on vessels attempting to breach a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip left nine Turkish citizens dead.

“I must emphasize that Turkey and Israel are friends,” Gul said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York today. “There are strong, centuries-old ties of friendships between our people, and Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Israel in 1949.”

Gul’s comments came two days after a United Nations human rights panel of inquiry said Israel’s May 31 efforts to stop a flotilla of ships from reaching the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip broke international human rights and humanitarian law. At the UN General Assembly yesterday, Gul reiterated Turkish demands for an apology from Israel.

“The attacks resulted in grave civilian casualties and were an unacceptable act and clear violation of international law,” Gul said today.

The assault on the ship Mavi Marmara constituted “grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law,” according to a report by a three-person panel of experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the report “as biased and as one-sided as the body that has produced it,” and said its own inquiries had sufficiently investigated the raid.

Israeli Account

Israel has said that in the confrontation, which followed numerous warnings for the ships to change course, its soldiers were attacked with knives and clubs after boarding the Mavi Marmara, one of the six vessels in the flotilla, and seven were wounded, including by gunfire after volunteers aboard the ship managed to grab Israeli firearms.

Activists have said they threw the firearms into the sea. There was no violence on the other five ships.

The Israeli government says its blockade of Gaza is legal because it is in “a state of armed conflict” with Hamas, which rules the coastal enclave and is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel and the European Union. Some countries, such as Turkey, dispute the legality of the blockade.

Hamas’s charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Hamas leaders say they will renounce violence when Israel withdraws from territory occupied in 1967 and allows Palestinians to return to areas in Israel from which they fled in 1948.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tal Barak Harif in New York at tbarak@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Papadopoulos at papadopoulos@bloomberg.net; Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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