Israel hopes to mend ties with Turkey, government official says

Israel will work to mend ties with Turkey, a government official said on Friday, after Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military agreements with the Jewish state, deepening a feud between the two former allies.

Turkey’s announcement came the day after a U.N. report said Israel had used unreasonable force in a lethal raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza last year, but confirmed Israel’s view that its naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave was legal.

“Israel recognizes the importance of the historical ties in the past and present between the Jewish and Turkish peoples,” an official Israeli statement said.

“The state of Israel hopes a way will be found to resolve the dispute and will continue to act toward that end.”

Israel said it welcomed the report by a U.N. panel which looked into its 2010 seizure of the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks died in the commando assault.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Friday that Turkey would “take all measures which it sees as necessary for freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean”.

He did not elaborate and Israel urged Turkey not to send boats to Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement officially sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.

“Israel assumes that Turkey will respect international law with regard to sailing in the Mediterranean,” the Israeli statement said. It reiterated that Israel regretted the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, but repeated that the Jewish state would not bow to Turkish demands for an apology.

The long-awaited U.N. report was delayed repeatedly to allow for Israeli-Turkish talks on repairing the rift between the two former allies, whose strategic cooperation was seen by Washington as crucial in a Middle East now rocked by upheaval.

A copy of the report was leaked to the New York Times on Thursday.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich