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Europe
Turkey demands return of citizens
Ankara threatens to cut Israel ties unless flotilla activists are returned by Wednesday.
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2010 13:12 GMT
There have been angry protests in Turkey against Israel's raid on the flotilla [AFP]

Turkey has warned it will cut off diplomatic ties with Israel if its citizens killed and injured in the Gaza flotilla raid are not returned by Wednesday night.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, also called for an international commission into the raid on the convoy of six ships, which reportedly killed at least four Turkish nationals.

"We have clearly stated that we would review our ties with Israel if all Turks not released by the end of the day," Davutoglu told a news conference.

Turkey has sent three planes to retrieve hundreds of activists detained following Monday's raid in international waters, which left nine people dead.

Legal action considered

Davutoglu said 210 Turks were scheduled to be flown to Istanbul from Israel on Turkish planes later on Wednesday, while it is believed around 20 injured people will return via Ankara, Turkey's capital, on ambulance planes.

The foreign minister added that two Turkish citizens who were in serious condition will remain in Israeli hospitals with a Turkish doctor.

IN DEPTH

"We will not leave them to the mercy of anyone," he said.

Davutoglu added Turkey was ready to normalise ties with Israel if it lifted its blockade on Gaza, saying "it was time calm replaces anger".

His comments came a day a day after Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, called for Israel to be "punished" for its "bloody massacre".

"It is no longer possible to cover up or ignore Israel's lawlessness. It is time for the international community to say 'enough is enough'," he said.

Relations between Turkey and Israel deteriorated rapidly following the deadly raid, with most of the bloodshed occurring on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-flagged ship carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists.

State media reported on Wednesday that Turkey's justice ministry is considering legal action against Israel.

Officials are looking into both domestic and international law to see what action might be undertaken after Monday's operation in international waters, a report by the Anatolia news agency said.

Thousands of Turks staged two days of protests across the country denouncing the action.

Jewish backlash fears

Some members of Turkey's Jewish community say they fear that anger over the flotilla deaths will lead to a rise in anti-Semitism in the nation.

"We are definitely worried, because that [the anger in Turkey] can turn very easily to anti-Semitism," Ivo Molinas, the editor in chief of the weekly Istanbul-based publication Shalom, said.

"The rhetoric used by the prime minister has been very radical," Molinas, a member of the 20,000-member Jewish community residing in Turkey, added.

Turkey says it has beefed up security to protect its Jewish minority, while Israel has ordered families of Israeli diplomats out of Turkey.

Besir Atalay, the Turkish interior minister, said security has been stepped up at 20 points alone in Istanbul, which has several synagogues and centres.

Turkey became Israel's chief regional ally when the two signed a military co-operation deal in 1996.

But relations have soured since Israel's devastating war on Gaza last year amid criticism from Erdogan's government.

Source:
Agencies
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