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Netanyahu: Israel won't back down in Turkey confrontation

By the CNN Wire Staff
Benjamin Netanyahu insists Israel does not need to apologise for raiding a ship trying to break its blockade of Gaza.
Benjamin Netanyahu insists Israel does not need to apologise for raiding a ship trying to break its blockade of Gaza.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Israel has no need to apologize for last year's raid on a ship trying to get to Gaza, the PM says
  • Turkey will bring a case against Israel to a global court this week, a minister says
  • Turkey has expelled Israel's ambassador in part due to a lack of apology over a 2010 raid
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon calls Turkey's actions "strange"

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday refused to give ground in an increasingly harsh diplomatic confrontation with Turkey, once his country's strongest ally in the region.

The two countries are at odds over last year's Israeli raid on a ship trying to break its blockade of Gaza.

Netanyahu said Sunday that his country did not need to say it was sorry for the incident, in which nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed and several Israeli troops were injured.

"The state of Israel has the full and basic right to defend itself," he said, and would not apologize for "the fact that our warriors protected themselves against an attack" or "for working to stop smuggling of weapons to Hamas ... to defend our citizens, our children and our cities."

But he said Israel "regrets the loss of human life" and hopes "that the way will be found to overcome the differences with Turkey. Israel never wanted its relations with Turkey to deteriorate, nor does it want them to deteriorate right now."

Israel never wanted its relations with Turkey to deteriorate, nor does it want them to deteriorate right now
--Benjamin Netanyahu
RELATED TOPICS
  • Israel
  • Turkey
  • Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Gaza

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador Saturday and said its effort to bring Israel before the International Court of Justice was moving ahead.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state-run news outlet TRT that the court's decision was binding: "So we say, if you think this way, let the ICJ decide. We will initiate the legal procedure next week."

Israel's deputy foreign minister responded that Turkey's actions were "strange."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told CNN affiliate Channel 2 that "Israel must not subject its foreign policy to caprices of others. The lack of cooperation does not hurt us alone, it damages the Turks as well."

The one-time close allies have been at odds since the violent May 2010 Israeli boarding of a ship headed to the Palestinian territory of Gaza -- around which Israel has a naval blockade. The Mavi Marmara had numerous Turks aboard and was part of a flotilla loaded with humanitarian aid.

In the latest indication of escalating tension between the two nations, Turkish officials on Friday ordered Israel's ambassador and other senior diplomats to leave their nation.

Foreign Minister Davutoglu said military agreements also have been suspended. But a senior Turkish official said that existing contracts must be honored "no matter what" and "we haven't touched upon intelligence sharing."

Besides the flotilla raid incident, Turkey has strongly opposed the Jewish state's blockade of Gaza because, an official said, Palestinians have suffered from the action and other Israeli policies in the densely populated region.

"It is about time for the Israeli government to face the consequences of its illegitimate actions since it sees itself above international law and ignores human conscience and must pay a price," Davutoglu said. "This price will be, above all, the loss of Turkey's friendship."

The ouster of Israeli diplomats from Turkey was cheered Saturday by Iran's foreign ministry. In a statement, reported by the semiofficial Iranian Students' News Agency, the ministry hailed the expulsion and called for more international constraints on Israel's authority in the region, particularly as it pertains to Gaza.

Ayalon, in his comments Saturday, accused Turkey of trying to "rise to unreasonable highs" in its demands for an apology on the incident and changes in Israel's policy.

Also Friday, the United Nations released the so-called Palmer report about the May 2010 raid in which it criticized Israel's actions in the incident, even as it defended the blockade of Gaza as a "legitimate security measure."

Israel's blockade of Gaza is designed to prevent weapons from being smuggled to the territory, which is controlled by the anti-Israeli group Hamas. Gaza-based militants have been firing rockets into southern Israel and Israel has responded with military might.

Turkey and Israel have been negotiating for months in an attempt to improve their faltering relationship, but those efforts have failed. The release of the report was delayed while those negotiations continued.

CNN's Guy Azriel, Kevin Flower and Yesim Comert contributed to this report.

 
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