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Middle East row

September 3, 2011

As tensions mounted between former allies Turkey and Israel, Germany joined the EU and the United Nations Saturday in urging the countries to resolve the diplomatic spat.

Turkish and Israeli flag
Turkey demands that Israel apologize for the raidImage: DW

Berlin called on Ankara Saturday to accept a UN report certifying that the Jewish nation's raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year was legal, although it resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens.

Meanwhile Turkey, which announced on Friday it was expelling Israeli diplomats, pledged to apply for a new investigation into Israel's naval blockade on Gaza at the International Court of Justice.

Turkey suspends military ties

On Friday, the UN released its report on Israel's May 2010 raid on the flotilla. In the report, the UN urged Israel to show "regret" for employing excessive force and to pay compensation to the families of those killed. However, the UN did not recommend that Israel apologize.

Guido Westerwelle
Westerwelle said Turkey must accept the UN's findings whether it likes them or notImage: DW-TV

Turkey responded to the report by announced it was expelling the Israeli ambassador and ending its longstanding military agreements with the Jewish state.

On Saturday, during an EU summit in Poland, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle met with his Turkish counterpart Ahmed Davutoglu, telling Davutoglu that Berlin was following the dispute "with great concern" and that it appealed "to all sides not to aggravate the situation."

Westerwelle pressed Turkey to get on board with the UN's report:

"We wanted a comprehensive, transparent and neutral investigation. This independent and transparent investigation took place. The results should be taken seriously even if a certain aspect is not liked by one or the other."

The German foreign minister said he "appreciated" Davutoglu's work but that "everything must be done to relieve tensions between Turkey and Israel," especially given Turkey's key diplomatic role in Middle East relations.

International echoes

Germany's concerns were shared Saturday by France, whose Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also weighed in on the dispute:

"We wish that this conflict between Israel and Turkey be solved by dialogue, cooperation and not through other means," Juppe said.

Earlier on Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the one-time allies to end the acrimony, over fears the could impact on the wider Middle East.

"I sincerely hope that Israel and Turkey will improve their relationship," Ban told reporters in the Australian capital Canberra.

The Mavi Marmara ship
Tension has erupted between Israel and Turkey, former its strongest Muslim allyImage: picture alliance/dpa

"Both countries are very important countries in the region and their improving relationship, normal relationship, will be very important in addressing all the situations in the Middle East, including the Middle East peace process," he said.

Palestinian future in the balance

Davutoglu declined to speak to the foreign media in the Polish city of Sopot, where he was participating in the EU meeting. He did, however, reiterate to Turkish state-run television that Turkey supported UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Aside from demanding an apology, Turkey insists that Israel must lift its naval blockade of Gaza.

Davutoglu's words came as EU partners grappled at the summit to forge a common position on Palestinian statehood, ahead of an appeal by the Palestinian Authority for full UN membership.

EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton said that Europe favors a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Germany and Britain have long opposed unilateral action in the matter.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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