After vote, Turkey should block flotilla: Israel

JERUSALEM, June 13, 2011 (AFP) - Israel hopes the Turkish government of re-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will block a flotilla of activists hoping to sail to Gaza, an Israeli minister said on Monday.

"It's clear that we don't want to see encouragement on the part of the Turkish government towards a provocative flotilla," Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, told public radio following Sunday's election in Turkey.

"We hope that a responsible government will not act against international law and will stop its citizens from entering dangerous zones."

A group of pro-Palestinian activists, led by several Turkish groups, have said they plan to sail to Gaza in June, in a repeat of a mission they undertook in May 2010.

That flotilla resulted in bloodshed when Israeli commandos raided the ships on May 31, as they approached Gaza. Nine Turks were killed in the assault, which was widely condemned and soured relations between Israel and Ankara.

The activists involved in the new flotilla have said they plan to go ahead with their mission, despite Egypt's decision to reopen the Rafah border crossing, effectively weakening Israel's blockade of the coastal strip.

Israel has strongly urged Turkey to block the flotilla from leaving this time, warning that its forces will take action to prevent activists from arriving in Gaza.

"This election is an occasion to open a new page. This doesn't depend on us, but on the Turks, and we hope to see from them a policy that is more thought-out and balanced and responsible," Ayalon said.

"We don't consider Turkey an enemy state. We hope that the Turks agree to take a significant step before relations with Israel degrade more than they have in the last year or two, mostly due to them," he added.

Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on activists to rethink the flotilla and suggested that aid could be delivered without provoking Israel or risking the lives of citizens.

"Civic groups should take into account the fact that the Rafah crossing (between Gaza and Egypt) has been opened and... act in a more careful manner," he said in remarks carried by Anatolia news agency.

However, he insisted it would be "unacceptable" for the Turkish government to demand independent civic groups abandon the mission, planned for late June with 15 ships from various countries.

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