Turkey announced on Friday that it would expel the Israeli ambassador and suspend all military ties with the Jewish state, escalating the diplomatic fray between the onetime close allies over the Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla that tried to break the naval blockade of Gaza last year.
While the move was not a complete diplomatic break with Israel, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu ordered Tel Aviv’s ambassador to leave the country by next week and said Istanbul would downgrade its diplomatic representation in Israel to one of the lowest diplomatic ranks, according to The New York Times.
“Our aim here is not to hurt our friendship but to return this friendship to its right track,” Davutoglu said.
Relations between Israel and Turkey have been tense since the 2010 raid on a Turkish-based flotilla bound to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. In a report expected later on Friday, the United Nations, charged to review the circumstances of the Israeli raid, found Israel's naval blockade of Gaza “legal and appropriate," according to the Times, which obtained an early copy. Eight Turks and an American of Turkish descent died in the Israeli raid on the ships. The U.N. report described the Israeli commandos' use of force on board the vessels “excessive and unreasonable,” even though it also concluded the they encountered "organized and violent" resistance from a group of passengers.
While Israel has offered to express regret for the casualties and pay compensation, it has refused to formally apologize to Turkey. Davutoglu said Turkey did not agree with the report’s findings that the blockade was legal, and it plans to take its objections to the the International Court of Justice in the Hague. "For this aim, we are starting initiatives at U.N. Security Council," the foreign minister said.