Israel wary at “harsh” Turk naval challenge

Posted: 09/10/2011 in all marine news

Dan Williams –

Israel will keep blockading Gaza in the face of Turkey’s unprecedented naval challenge and is prepared for escalation though it wants to ease tensions with its former ally, officials said Friday.

Deepening a crisis over Israel’s killing last year of nine Turkish citizens aboard an aid flotilla that tried to reach the Palestinian enclave, Turkey vowed Thursday to assign warships to escort such convoys in the future.

The prospect of a showdown at sea with Turkey, a NATO power and fellow U.S. strategic partner in the region, rattled Israelis already on edge over Arab world political upheaval and Iran’s nuclear program.

Breaking an almost 24-hour-long silence on the warships comments, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israeli policy “was and remains the prevention of deterioration in our ties with Turkey and easing the tensions between the countries.”

“The prime minister and cabinet discussed the various theoretical possibilities should escalation occur,” it said in a statement. “But a decision on such will be made only if and when required.”

Confrontation did not appear imminent after the IHH, a Turkish Islamist charity that owned the Mavi Marmara cruise ship stormed by Israeli marines on May 31, 2010, said in Istanbul it had no plan “for now” to mount another Gaza mission.

But Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan also pledged to boost naval patrols around eastern Mediterranean gas fields being developed by Israel, a potential blow to the Netanyahu government’s quest for energy independence.

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