- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ANKARA, TURKEYTurkey’s prime minister said Tuesday his nation’s navy will step up its surveillance of the eastern Mediterranean Sea since Israel has refused to apologize for last year’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla there.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said his government may impose more sanctions against Israel since it has refused to apologize for the attack on the flotilla.

The attack occurred in international waters, 72 nautical miles from land, and killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives, and on Tuesday, Israel said it may be time for the two countries to restore their former close ties.

Speaking before Mr. Erdogan’s threat of more sanctions, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “Israel and Turkey are the two strongest nations in the Middle East and in many respects, the most important. We have disputes, and even in the case of disputes, it’s very important that the two sides use their brains and not act from the gut.

“It would be best for all involved and in the interest of regional stability to patch things up,” Mr. Barak told reporters while touring Israel’s northern border.

Turkey already has suspended military ties with Israel, ordered its top diplomats out of the country by Wednesday and promised to lobby other nations to support a plan by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at an annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

Mr. Erdogan did not say what the next round of sanctions could include.

A U.N. report released last week called the Israeli raid on the flotilla “excessive and unreasonable,” but also said Turkey and the flotilla organizers contributed to the deaths. Israel has accepted the U.N. report, albeit with reservations. Turkey has rejected it.

The report said Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legally imposed “as a legitimate security measure” to prevent weapons smuggling, but that the killing of the eight Turkish activists and a Turkish American was “unacceptable.”

“That report does not mean anything for us,” Mr. Erdogan said Monday. “We will determinedly maintain this process. Diplomatic relations will be downgraded as of tomorrow, trade relations, military relations have been suspended.”

Turkey did not impose a trade embargo on Israel but suspended ongoing defense projects and purchases from Israeli defense firms.

The Turkish government was disappointed by the U.N. report’s failure to criticize Israel more strongly and force it to apologize to Turkey.

Mr. Erdogan’s government repeatedly has said the raid occurred in international waters, that Israel’s attack was unacceptable and that it is determined to protect the rights of Turkish citizens.

“This process will be followed by very different types of sanctions,” Mr. Erdogan said at a news conference, without elaborating.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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