Press Statement By H.e. Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister Of Foreign Affairs Of The Republic Of Turkey, Regarding Turkish-israeli Relations, 2 September 2011.
You all know very well the reason why I will deliver this statement today. Approximately 15 months ago on the 31st of May 2010, Israel carried out an armed attack in the international waters of the Mediterranean, against an international aid convoy in which hundreds of passengers from 32 countries participated to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza. During this attack, Israeli soldiers killed 9 civilians, 8 of whom were Turkish and 1 was a US citizen, they injured many passengers and also forcefully brought the ship and its passengers to Israel. These people were subjected to all sorts of degrading treatment throughout their two-day captivity at the hands of Israel.
Approximately 15 months have elapsed since this unlawful attack. However, the concrete facts remain unchanged. I find it necessary to repeat them. The Israeli attack took place in international waters. Those killed by Israeli soldiers were innocent civilians. Those, whose lives were claimed, were civilians who wished to respond to the cry for help of the Palestinian people under the plight of the blockade enforced by Israel in violation of international law and human values. War is a harsh reality of the history of humanity. And war, above all, is the gravest violation of the human right to life, which constitutes the most sacred value. Indeed, all civilizations have developed the concept of a “just war” in order to regulate even war according to certain rules. For this reason, the use of military force has been restricted by very strict conditions in the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, it is for the conviction of the sanctity of the right to life, that even when the war is warranted, the killing of innocent civilians is accepted as a war crime. However, Israel, not in war but in peace time, not in a military but a civilian convoy; killed civilians who participated in a peaceful event organized to bring aid to innocent people suffering under a cruel embargo. This is the picture! Moreover, it did so, neither in its territory nor territorial waters, but in international waters, where freedom of navigation prevails as the most fundamental principle of international law. The crime committed by Israel is not a simple offense. It is international law that has been violated. It is the conscience of humanity and the most fundamental human value, the right to life that have been violated. There is an irreversible truth: And that is, the fact that attacking civilians in a ship part of an aid convoy, firing multiple times at unarmed people at the back of their neck is a crime against humanity. This crime cannot be covered under any guise nor justified under any circumstances. One other thing must also be underlined. No state is above the law. The world is currently changing. Those who claim the lives of civilians, or commit crimes against humanity are sooner or later brought before justice and face trial for their crimes. Neither the Israeli Government who ordered the attack against the Mavi Marmara nor the ones that actually carried out the attack are above or immune from the law. They all must be held accountable. In fact, they have already been convicted by the conscience of humanity. Distinguished Members of the Press, You will recall that, as Turkey, we promptly acted to ensure that this clear crime would not go unpunished and that justice would to take its course. To this end, within hours of the Israeli attack we called for an urgent session of the UN Security Council that very same day. In my speech before the UN Security Council, I stated that humanity had drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean with this Israeli attack which totally disregarded all norms of law, human conscience and values of humanity. Indeed, the UN Security Council, in the first hours of 1 June 2010, adopted a Presidential Statement with the agreement of all its members -an agreement of the entire international community. With this Statement, the Security Council called for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards, into the tragedy caused as a result of Israel’s use of armed force. Furthermore, the UN Human Rights Council based in Geneva, adopted a resolution by which it established a Fact-Finding Mission comprising highly prominent and specialized lawyers and launched an investigation process into the attack. The UN Secretary General also set up an Inquiry Panel in line with the call by the Security Council. As Turkey, we have fully cooperated with the Panel. We provided every contribution to speed up the investigation process and submitted our national report. Whereas Israel, despite being represented in the Panel, continuously acted with the intention to delay its work. Again, as you all very well know, we requested the Government of Israel to issue a formal apology and pay compensation to the families of and those close to the deceased. Moreover, we continued to emphasize that the blockade enforced against Gaza, which was explicitly criticized in the UN Security Council Presidential Statement, must be lifted. We also declared that if our conditions were not met, the Turkish-Israeli relations would not be normalized. On the other hand, upon being informed by the Government of Israel of its readiness to meet with Turkey with a view to apologize from the Turkish public and pay compensation to the families of and those close to the deceased, we held a total of 4 rounds of meetings at different times. During these meetings, agreement was reached a couple of times between the Turkish and Israeli delegations negotiating the texts of an agreement, which accommodated our claims for an apology and compensation. Indeed, ad referendum agreement was reached for the first time over two separate texts as a result of the meetings held in Geneva upon the request by the Israeli Prime Minister following Turkey’s contribution to the relief efforts to put out the forest fires in Israel in December 2010. This agreement was also endorsed by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, due to the disagreements within the Israeli Council of Ministers, this agreement could not be implemented. Throughout this process, all the delays in the publication of the Palmer Commission’s report- I am emphasizing this since we are faced with a serious press manipulation- were caused as a result of the Government of Israel’s request for additional time to form its internal consensus over apology and compensation, in other words every postponement was at the request of the Government of Israel. The last request made by Israel for a 6 month-additional period was not accepted by Turkey. Because it was understood that all these requests for delay were aimed at prolonging the process. The leaking to the press of the report, to which neither Turkey nor Israel is a side, bearing only the signatures of its Chair Palmer and Vice-Chair Uribe, and before it was officially submitted to the UN Secretary General on 1 September, is quite thought-provoking in this sense. Yesterday I spoke in a frank manner to the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon on this subject. He expressed great astonishment and dismay that this report which had not yet been submitted to him and whose details he was not yet fully acquitted with would be leaked to the press as it had. Unfortunately, the Israeli side has not acted in a manner compatible with State solemnity and confidentiality in this process. First of all it should be stated that this report reflects only the views of the people abovementioned. The report clearly establishes and expresses the crimes committed by Israeli soldiers and other officials. In this respect, it explicitly concludes that attacking vessels with substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone was excessive and unreasonable. It also states that the loss of life and injuries caused by Israeli soldiers was unacceptable, none of the nine deaths was accounted for by Israel and that the evidence showed that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range. The report clearly documents serious mistreatment of passengers, including physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and denial of consular assistance. The report however alleges that the inhumane blockade enforced by Israel against Gaza is lawful. It is not possible and even out of the question to accept this approach. The Fact Finding Mission, comprising highly competent and specialized lawyers mandated by the UN Human Rights Council have reported that the Gaza blockade is unlawful. They clearly documented this in their work following the incident last year. This conviction was both endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council and supported by the UN General Assembly. When this is the case, clearly then the controversial views put forward by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Panel exceeding their mandates are based on political motives, rather than on legal grounds. Turkey in no way accepts this approach, which jeopardizes the functioning and integrity of the panel. Turkey totally rejects this approach, which it finds incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Presidential Statement adopted by the UN Security Council by consensus. In this vein, we are determined to refer this issue to the competent international legal authorities.
Turkey’s stance against this unlawful act of Israel from the first moment has been very clear and principled. Our demands are known. Our relations with Israel will not be normalized until these conditions are met. At this juncture, Israel has wasted all the opportunities it was presented with. Now, the Government of Israel must face the consequences of its unlawful acts, which it considers above the law and are in full disregard of the conscience of humanity. The time has come for it to pay a price for its actions. This price is, above all, deprivation of Turkey’s friendship. The only side responsible in reaching this stage, is the Government of Israel and the irresponsible act of the Government of Israel. In this context, our Government has decided to take the following measures at this stage:
1. Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel will be downgraded to the Second Secretary level. All personnel starting with the Ambassador above the Second Secretary level, will return to their countries on Wednesday at the latest.
2. Military agreements between Turkey and Israel have been suspended.
3. As a littoral state which has the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey will take whatever measures it deems necessary in order to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
4. Turkey does not recognize the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel. Turkey will ensure the examination by the International Court of Justice of Israel's blockade imposed on Gaza as of 31 May 2010. To this end we are starting initiatives in order to mobilize the UN General Assembly.
5. We will extend all possible support to Turkish and foreign victims of Israel’s attack in their initiatives to seek their rights before courts.
Distinguished Members of the Press,
I would like to emphasize another point. We in Turkey, we are the representatives of an understanding that advocates peace instead of eternal conflict and wants to establish justice instead of tyranny. Our foreign policy is based on this fundamental understanding. That is why, in the same manner that we have raised our voice against the massacres in Bosnia, in Kosovo, we have also shown our reaction following the brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza. Today, the Government of Israel must make a choice and the time has come to make that choice. Those who rule Israel need to see that it will only be possible to ensure real security by building a real peace. They should also understand that the path to building real peace passes through the strengthening of friendships, not by murdering citizens of friendly countries. However, it is also clear that the current Government of Israel is incapable of seeing this simple reality and comprehending the consequences of the huge changes taking place in the Middle East. On this occasion, I would like to emphasize that the measures we have adopted and we will adopt are linked only to the current Government of Israel's attitude. Our aim is not to harm or jeopardize the historic Turkish-Jewish friendship, on the contrary, we aim to encourage the Government of Israel to correct this mistake that does not befit this exceptional friendship. Turkey has always demonstrated a sincere and constructive attitude regarding the prevention of developments that adversely affect regional and global peace and stability and has always sought to correct their negative impact. Turkey has made known her demands and expectations in a very clear manner from the beginning and has done her part. I would like to underline it once more. The Government of Israel is the responsible party for the point we have reached today. As long as the Government of Israel does not take the necessary steps, we will not be able to revert from this point.
I thank you.
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