Turkey says Israel not keeping to defense deals
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's prime minister accused Israel on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations in defense deals, adding to tensions with Israel which have escalated since an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla killed nine people last year.
Turkey last week expelled top Israeli diplomats, suspended all military deals and vowed to step up Turkish navy patrols in the eastern Mediterranean, angered over its former ally's refusal to apologize for the raid that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American.
Turkey also promised to lobby for support for the Palestinians' bid for state recognition at the United Nations and warned that more sanctions against Israel could follow.
Asked to comment on Turkey's decision to suspend defense industry deals, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters Israel wasn't keeping to the terms of defense agreements, accusing it of not returning drones that Turkey had bought from Israel and sent back for maintenance.
"They are not loyal to agreements between us in the defense industry," Erdogan said. "There might be problems, you may not be speaking to each other, but you have to fulfill your responsibility under international agreements."
Turkey has purchased 10 Heron drones from Israel, following the lease of a number of unmanned spy planes from the country. It was not clear how many of the drones are in Israel for maintenance.
Turkey uses the drones to spy on Kurdish rebels, who maintain bases in northern Iraq, and have escalated their attacks on Turkish troops and police officers lately.
Turkey's sanctions against Israel — once a top military trading partner — follows a U.N. report into the flotilla raid, which accuses Israel of using excessive force, but also describes Israel's blockade of Gaza as legitimate.
Turkey has rejected the report, while Israel accepted it with some reservations.
Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives aboard the flotilla but has refused to apologize saying its forces acted in self-defense. It has also said it was time for the two countries to restore their former close ties.
But Erdogan said Wednesday Turkey was determined to keep up its stance toward Israel at any cost.
"We don't care if it costs $15 million or $150 million," Erdogan said. "We will not allow anyone to walk all over our honor."
Erdogan reiterated that Turkey was planning possible new sanctions against Israel, but refused to disclose what they could entail. He said Turkey intended to increase the Turkish navy's surveillance of the eastern Mediterranean, adding that parts of it were Turkey's "exclusive economic zones."
"Until now, they were running wild in (the eastern Mediterranean). From now on, we will see Turkish ships more often especially in our exclusive economic zones," Erdogan said. "All the pros and cons of this have been calculated. We were present in these waters in the past, we are present today and we will continue to be present tomorrow."
Turkey's main opposition has criticized Turkey's plans to increase navy patrols in the eastern Mediterranean, saying it could lead to a confrontation between Turkey and Israel.
Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report.