Friday, 9 September 2011

Turkey Backing Off From Naval Threat Against Israel?

The Turkish government is now claiming its remarks on a naval escort for aid ships have been misinterpreted. This is from Today's Zaman, which is more or less a government mouthpiece publication.
A warning by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Israel reiterating his country's firmness on ensuring freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean sent shockwaves throughout the region after it was interpreted as a prelude to a naval confrontation with its former ally.

But officials in Ankara made clear on Friday that Erdoğan's remarks during an interview with Al Jazeera were quoted out of context. Some of his quotes were compiled later both by Al Jazeera and Reuters in a way that implied these quotes had followed each other, the same officials said. “Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying by Reuters in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.

“From now on, we will not let these ships be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdoğan was also quoted as saying by Reuters.

In the Turkish version of the text of the interview provided by the Anatolia news agency, however, Erdoğan, in response to a question on ensuring the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean, says: “At the moment, no doubt, Turkish warships are first of all liable to protect their own ships. This is the first step. And there is humanitarian aid which we will extend. Our humanitarian assistance will no longer be attacked as happened in the case of the Mavi Marmara.”

A senior government official speaking to Today's Zaman on Friday said Erdoğan's remarks cannot be interpreted to mean that Turkey has been preparing to send humanitarian aid ships to the region that will be escorted by Turkish warships. “We have put forth a principle by saying that we will ensure the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean and that this field is not an Israeli playground.

As long as Israel does not interfere in the freedom of navigation, we do not plan on sending any warships to escort humanitarian aid ships,” the official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Today’s Zaman. “The misquoted remarks suggest that we have been readying to provide a warship to escort each humanitarian aid ship. This is not the case. However, Turkey will protect its citizens’ rights in the event of any interference in international waters,” the official added.
Source: Today's Zaman

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