Turkey to Boost Naval Presence over Gaza Flotilla Row with IsraelWorld | September 21, 2011, Wednesday // 14:29| views
A Palestinian policeman from the Navy kneels in front of an Egyptian and a Turkish flag during a memorial ceremony for eight Turkish citizens and an American citizen of Turkish descent who were killed 31 May 2010 by Israeli commandos in a raid on a Gaza-b
Turkey is set to boost its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean to head off Israeli measures against aid convoys to Gaza.
Warships will be tasked with patrolling regional waters and escorting Turkish boats bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, raising the specter of a possible maritime confrontation with the Israeli navy, Turkey's NTV channel said on Wednesday, as cited by RIA Novosti.
"Certainly, our ships will show up more frequently in these waters," he said. "Israel will not be able to move in the eastern Mediterranean as it wishes...It will see our determination in this regard."
Erdogan's statement comes amidst rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Israel as well as between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus.
Erdogan also made a connection between the naval build-up and tensions over the large energy reserves under the sea in the area. Cyprus recently announced that it will begin drilling on October 1 for oil and gas off the island's southern coast, where massive gas fields were found under the seabed.
The Turkish PM added that Israeli forces will be unable to stage another attack like the one that killed nine activists on a Gaza flotilla in May 2010, triggering an unprecedented crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations. Israel has so far refused a Turkish demand to apologize for the death of the activists.
Turkey recently expelled Israel's ambassador and other high-level diplomats from Ankara as an obvious manifestation of the gravity of the Turkish-Israeli crisis.
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