ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayip Erdogan, said yesterday that Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year was “cause for war’’ but added that his country showed “patience’’ and refrained from taking any action.
Erdogan made the comments before departing for a visit to Egypt, where he will seek to boost his government’s already high standing in the Arab world - a position he has achieved in part by challenging Israel on the world stage.
Erdogan, intent on broadening Turkey’s influence in the Middle East and the Arab world, will also visit Tunisia and Libya, two other countries where popular uprisings have ousted autocratic leaders.
Erdogan told Al-Jazeera television in a recent interview that the Israeli raid, which killed eight Turks and a Turkish American on board a Turkish ship trying to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, occurred in international waters and was ‘unlawful. His comments were carried by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia news agency late Sunday.
“It is a cause for war, but we decided to act in line with Turkey’s grandeur and showed patience,’’ Erdogan said.
An Israeli government spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but Israel insists its naval commandos acted in self-defense after being attacked by some of the activists.
Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives and said last Tuesday it was time for the two countries to restore their former close ties.
An Israeli Cabinet minister, Gilad Erdan, insisted the deterioration of relations with Turkey was not Israel’s fault. “With Turkey, we had a very close relationship in the past, and we still hope that we can improve the relationship with Turkey, but it wasn’t our decision to deteriorate the relationship,’’ Erdan said in Jerusalem, adding that Israel was prepared to “pay money to the families’’ of the victims.