Arab states cheer Turks for tough Israel stand
ISTANBUL — Arab nations burst into applause yesterday 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 UN 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 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
“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,’’ Erdogan said at the Turkish-Arab Economic Forum. “This can’t continue as it is.’’
Amr Moussa, Arab league chief, also accused Israel of 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 commandos 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 UN Security Council passed Wednesday after rejecting an Iranian nuclear fuel swap-deal brokered by Ankara.