A Turkish minister proposed on Wednesday sending a NATO fleet to end an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip following the deaths of nine Turks in a raid by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
Egemen Bagis, Turkey's chief negotiator with the European Union, said he did not favour an attack on Israeli vessels enforcing the blockade but that Israel should not be allowed to continue to keep aid out.
"I think NATO should send a fleet to put an end to the embargo," Bagis, whose country is a member of NATO but not the EU, told reporters during a visit to Brussels.
Asked if this might involve a NATO attack on Israeli vessels enforcing the blockade, he said: "There needs to be no attack."
Relations between Turkey and Israel have sunk to their lowest level in decades since the Israeli commandos boarded the ships carrying pro-Palestinian activists and aid on May 31.
He said one option would be for the NATO fleet to take humanitarian aid, adding that this was his personal idea and he had not discussed it with the rest of the Turkish government.
"The fleet is just one option. Maybe (we could end the blockade) through dialogue, diplomacy," he said.
Demands for end to Israeli blockade
Bagis, visiting Brussels for talks with members of the European Parliament and the executive European Commission, made clear Turkey would welcome more international support for ensuring Israel lifts the blockade on Gaza.
He regretted an initial EU statement on the Israeli raid made by foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"The first statement by Mrs Ashton when she said Israel should start an inquiry was a joke. But later on in the day when she issued a written statement, calling for an impartial, objective inquiry and criticising Israel in very strong terms, it was appreciated," he said.
He made clear Turkey would also have welcomed stronger criticism by Washington of its Israeli alies at the United Nations Security Council.
"Although we might not see eye to eye on some issues with the Americans, their attitude at the Security Council towards condemning Israel was not what we would expect or hope for," Bagis said.
"Last time I checked, there was no pre-requisite for negotiating countries to become members (of the EU) based on their relations with Israel. I think that's mixing apples and oranges," he said.
ReutersLast Mod: 10 Haziran 2010, 09:48