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6.4.2010 Gaza flotilla: Turkey threat to Israel ties over raid


Turkey has warned it may reduce economic and defence ties with Israel following the deadly raid on a Gaza aid flotilla.

Deputy PM Bulent Arinc said Ankara was "assessing deals with Israel", once its close ally.

Nine Turkish activists were killed when Israeli troops clashed with passengers on a ship trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza on Monday.

Another aid ship - the Rachel Corrie - is on its way to the Hamas-run enclave.

Israel has been widely criticised over the raid, which took place in international waters.

There are conflicting reports as to what happened - the activists say they were attacked, while Israel says its commandos were beaten, stabbed and shot at first.

Israel says it will not allow the ships to dock at Gaza, fearing the cargo might contain weapons and other items it wants to prevent reaching Hamas.

'High emotion'
Mr Arinc said on Friday that all military and economic deals made with Israel were now being re-evaluated, although he suggested no action would be taken immediately.

"We are serious about this subject," he told NTV broadcaster.

"We may plan to reduce our relations with Israel to a minimum, but to assume everything involving another country is stopped in an instant, to say we have crossed you out of our address book, is not the custom of our state."

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul says Mr Arinc has made it clear that there will be long-term consequences over what happened on the aid ships.

The government will be able to consider what action to take against Israel once the emotions of recent days - as Turkey mourns the dead activists - calms down, our correspondent says.

Thousands turned out in Istanbul on Thursday for the funeral services of eight of the victims.

The youngest of the dead activists, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan - who was born in the US but moved to Turkey as a child - is being buried in his hometown of Kayseri in central Turkey on Friday.

Banned materials
Meanwhile, the MV Rachel Corrie aid ship is heading towards the coast of Gaza, aiming to break the Israeli blockade.

Activists on board told the BBC's Andrew North in Jerusalem by telephone that they were about 150 miles (240km) away and aimed to arrive just outside Israel's 20 mile (30km) exclusion zone off Gaza by Saturday morning.

They said there are 20 people on board, including five Irish nationals, six Malaysians and nine crew members.

One of the activists, former Nobel peace prize winner Mairead Maguire, said their humanitarian aid shipment includes cement and construction materials - items banned by Israel.

Israel has made it clear it will not allow the ship - named after a US college student who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer as she protested about house demolitions in Gaza - to dock in the Palestinian territory.

The Israeli government has instead offered to take the aid in by land, once it has checked there is nothing in the shipment that can be used for weapons.

After Monday's deadly assault on the six other aid ships, Israel's response is being closely watched, our correspondent says.

Mairead Maguire told him that they plan to sail all the way in to Gaza, but will show no resistance or violence if Israeli forces stop them and board the ship.