10 Sep 2011

Turkey to escort aid ships to Gaza

10:07 am on 10 September 2011

Turkey is to escort aid ships travelling to the Gaza Strip in future, following a raid by Israel on an aid convoy attempting to break a blockade of Gaza last year.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have worsened since Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara on 31 May last year as it was heading for Gaza. Nine Turks were killed during the raid.

Israel has refused to apologise and said its troops acted in self-defence.

Turkey has already cut military ties and expelled Israel's ambassador. It has also said it will challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza at the International Court of Justice.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip told Al Jazeera that Turkish warships were ''authorised to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza''.

'''From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,'' he said, referring to the Mavi Marmara incident.

Mr Erdogan said Turkey has also taken steps to prevent Israel unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

A UN inquiry, led by former New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, last week said the naval blockade of Gaza was legal and appropriate because it was aimed at preventing the import of weapons by sea.