Israel ‘Top of List’ on Rights Violations, Turkish Minister Says

Israel is at the “very top of the list” when it came to human-rights violations, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, showing little thaw in relations between the once-close countries.

Davutoglu was speaking at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport before leaving for a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where ministers from around the world will meet to discuss a coordinated response to Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s crackdown against anti-regime rebels in Libya.

“If you’re going to make a list ranking human-rights violations, Israel’s probably at the very top of the list,” Davutoglu said in remarks carried today by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and has said relations with the Jewish state are “under review” after Israeli soldiers raided a Turkish aid ship headed for the Gaza Strip on May 31, killing nine Turks on board. Turkey has demanded an official apology and compensation for the victims as preconditions for the normalization of relations. Israel has refused to give either, saying it was enforcing an embargo of the Hamas-controlled strip and that its soldiers were attacked by Islamic extremists on board.

Leaders of the charity behind the Turkish flotilla were in Iran on Feb. 17, where they were hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and called for a Middle East “free of Israel and America,” news site said. The Turkish site cited Behcet Atila, a provincial coordinator for the IHH, whose name in English is the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief.

March Report

Davutoglu said he would submit a report on the flotilla raid to another sitting of the UN panel in Geneva on March 21, calling it “an attack on a civilian convoy that violated all human rights and principles.”

He also criticized the U.S.’s Feb. 19 veto of a UN resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlements. “You can’t expect Israel to take the necessary steps for peace at the negotiation table” if other countries refuse to criticize it, he said.

Davutoglu said he will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton while in Geneva.

Turkey opposes sanctions against the Libyan regime. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday they would do more harm than good.

“Libyans who face starvation and death will face more difficulties and desperation in the event of sanctions,” he said. “The Middle East and Africa have been viewed by the West as merely sources of oil and used as pawns in oil wars for decades. People take to the streets because they are fed up with being used as pawns in oil wars.”

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