Officials in Jerusalem were surprised to learn that Turkey is working to prevent Lebanese ships from attempting to sail to Gaza in violation of an Israeli blockade on the Hamas-run territory, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Tuesday.This follows a statement by the UN on Friday that the preferred way for those wanting to send aid to Gaza is through the established land routes.
Israeli officials estimate that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Damascus and Beirut last week, asked the Lebanese government to prevent the flotilla's departure as part of Ankara's efforts to ease tensions with Israel.
According to the officials, the change in Turkey's policy stems from its understanding that the crisis with Israel has damaged its image, as well as its ties with Washington and Europe.
On May 31 Israeli commandos raided a Gaza-bound Turkish ship. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the incident.
In closed meetings, officials in Ankara have said that since the Turkish flotilla led to the partial lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza, there is no point in sending more vessels to the Strip.
Turkish officials have also told the American and Europeans that Ankara is interested in restoring normal ties with Israel.
Besides Turkey's image and ties to the West being in danger, there is of course the economic side as well:
Turkish exports to Israel were nearly $1 billion in the first six months of 2010, a 40 percent increase over the same period in 2009, and Israeli exports to Turkey were up 21 percent to $645 million in the same period, according to the Israeli government. Products include machinery, rubber, plastics, leather, textiles and precious stones and metals.Still, considering how Turkey has taken a more Islamist shift and has made a point of strengthening ties with its Muslim neighbors, Turkey's unexpected opposition to another flotilla should make things interesting.
Technorati Tag: Lebanese Flotilla and Turkey.