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Arab nations unite in applause for Turkey's tough Israel stance

11 June 2010 [09:58] - TODAY.AZ
Turkey gets Arab nations’ full support on its stance against Israel’s deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and blockade on the Palestinian territory at a forum in Istanbul.
Prime Minister Erdoğan says his country cannot turn blind eye on Israel ‘banditry,’ while rejecting claims that Turkey is shifting away from the West.

Arab nations burst into applause Thursday as Turkey's prime minister walked to the podium at a summit, reflecting Turkey's meteoric rise on the world stage amid disputes over Israel's blockade of Gaza and U.N. sanctions against Iran.

The Turkish-Arab Economic Forum opened with calls for an international investigation into the May 31 Israeli commando raid on aid ships bound for Gaza, a topic emphasized by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Meanwhile, the participant nations condemned Israel in the final declaration of the forum.

"Are we going to remain silent over the murder of nine people? We can't turn a blind eye to this banditry in international waters," Erdoğan told the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum. "From now on, this can't continue as it is."

Arab league chief Amr Moussa also accused Israel continued "atrocity and assault" in violation of human rights and international law and praised Turkey for challenging Israel on the raid that left eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American teenager dead.

Israel insists its commandoes acted in self-defense after being attacked by pro-Palestinian activists on the aid ships.

Moussa said the nine dead "are our martyrs as well."

Turkey's popularity in the Muslim world has surged as it led the world in condemning Israel for the raid on ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. Turkey - a non-Arab, predominantly Muslim country - also won favor among Arab allies for objecting to new sanctions against Iran, which the U.N. Security Council passed Wednesday after rejecting an Iranian nuclear fuel swap-deal brokered by Ankara.

"Arms, embargoes and exclusion are not working," Erdoğan said, adding that the world was paying a heavy price as a result of such policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There are hundreds of thousands of widows, who will account for this? There are orphans, who will account for this? Those who turn this geography into this (mess) have to be held accountable."

Shift claims nixed

Erdoğan strongly rejected allegations in the West that Turkey was shifting toward the East, describing such claims as "evil intentioned" and attempts to prevent Turkey from establishing relations with the Arab world.

Erdogan stressed Turkey's commitment to its membership bid in the European Union, but at the same time accused the EU countries of not being sincere and raising obstacles. Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other foreign ministers from about 15 other Arab nations also attended the summit.

Hariri said the Middle East was suffering under Israel's "criminal and barbaric" attitude. "We support Turkey's demands not only about the international investigation, but for Israel to apologize," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said. "We support Turkey's demand to try those behind these acts."

Turkey also says Israel's partial easing of its Gaza blockade was not enough. At another summit in Istanbul earlier this week, Turkey and 21 Asian countries urged Israel to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and place its nuclear capabilities under the safeguards of the International Atomic Agency.

Turkey said Israel should not be left out from any scrutiny of its alleged nuclear arsenal, which Israel has never confirmed, and also said Iran should be able to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

/Hurriyyet Daily News/

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