WASHINGTON—Turkey’s foreign minister ratcheted up the pressure on the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Israel Tuesday, saying he was disappointed by what Ankara regards as a slow and tepid response by the international community to the raid by Israeli forces on a flotilla of Turkish aid ships.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told lawmakers in Parliament Tuesday that Israel’s boarding of the Mediterranean flotilla late Sunday was an attack “on international law, the conscience of humanity and world peace.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he expected the U.S. to more strongly condemn the raid and to put pressure on Israel to release all civilians they are holding, points he would raise with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones in meetings Tuesday.
“I have to be frank: I am not very happy with the statement from Washington yesterday,” Mr. Davutoglu said in a meeting with a small group of reporters here. “We expect a clear condemnation.”
The firm stance taken by Turkey could further complicate an already delicate balancing act the Obama administration is conducting in the region, with the White House needing Turkish support for a new round of sanctions against Iran, among other regional priorities.
Mr. Davutoglu didn’t link the American response to the Israeli raid to Ankara’s support for the sanctions proposal, which Turkey will vote on as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council.
But he said his government remained opposed to any new sanctions against Iran before serious consideration is given to a Turkish-negotiated deal struck with Tehran last month in which Iran would ship a large amount of nuclear fuel overseas in return for uranium enriched to levels used in medical research.
Mr. Davutoglu expressed disappointment that it took 11 hours for the U.N. Security Council to come up with a statement condemning the raid, a thinly-veiled criticism of the U.S., which worked behind the scenes to weaken some of its language.
“We expect full solidarity with us,” Mr. Davutoglu said of the U.S. response. “It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong, between legal and illegal.”
Mr. Davutoglu called the raid a “criminal act,” saying that because it occurred in international waters, the ships were sovereign territory that couldn’t be legally boarded. He said that the Turkish government had intervened with the nongovernmental organizations behind the flotilla before they approached Israel in hopes that a confrontation could be avoided, but couldn’t directly order the groups to desist.
He said that in discussions with the NGOs, the Turkish government had been led to believe the flotilla would approach only Gazan waters, where they would protest Israel’s blockade before moving on to Israeli ports to unload their aid.
“We did our best to approach the Turkish NGOs to take this humanitarian aid to other ports,” he said. “We cannot control NGOs. Tukrey is a democratic country; we can only try to convince.”
Asked whether Turkey would send military forces to protect a second flotilla that is reportedly being organized by the same NGOs, Mr. Davutoglu said no decision had been made, but added he hoped Israel had learned from the incidents not to repeat the raid.
He also called Israel’s delay in identifying the dead and wounded “psychological torture,” and demanded Israel move quickly to apologize and allow for an international investigation.
“We want Israel to release all of the passengers without questioning, without arresting any of them,” he said. “We want to get all the bodies of all the deceased, and also the wounded people, immediately.”
WSJ | June 1, 2010