Michael Herzog
Haaretz (Opinion)
October 18, 2010 - 12:00am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that until Israel apologized for its May attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship in which nine Turkish citizens were killed it would remain isolated in the Middle East.

“Israel must apologize to Turkey and pay compensation for the state terrorism in the Mediterranean," Erdogan said while addressing members of his Islamic-oriented party at a weekend retreat, adding that "If it does not, it will be doomed to remain isolated in the Middle East.”

The Turkish premier also criticized the United States for continuing to support Israel after the "uncivilized" attack during a recent state visit to Pakistan.

“Nine Turkish martyrs on the ship received 21 bullets from Israeli soldiers in their bodies, we provided post mortem reports and even the pictures to the EU and U.S. but Washington is not ready to condemn the state terrorism of Israel against Turkey which means that the U.S. is supporting an international terrorist who killed our citizens in international waters," Erdogan told the Pakistan Tribune.

According to the report the Turkish prime minister also stressed the importance of close ties between Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey, saying that the countries have a common security and financial future.

Earlier this month the U.S. and Israeli expressed concern regarding Turkey's growing military ties with Iran and China, especially following a joint Turkish-Chinese air-force exercise.

Until two years ago Israel was Turkey's main partner for air combat training.

In the wake of Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent deterioration of bilateral relations Turkey last year revoked Israel's participation in the maneuvers. The United States decided not to take part in the exercise this year because of that decision. A number of other NATO members followed suit.

Turkey replaced the Israel Air Force with its Chinese counterpart. China sent Sukhoi SU-27 fighter aircraft and pilots to train with Turkey's F-16 fighters. In the past these exercises were held in relatively openness, but last week they were held covertly, with only a brief report appearing in the Turkish media after the exercise.

The Obama administration also protested Turkey's military cooperation with Iran after it was reported that the Chinese fighter planes were sent to Turkey via Pakistan and Iran.

The developing ties among Turkey, Iran and China are also reflected in weapons deals, with Iran buying from China mainly missile technology.


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