By Nicole Gaouette
May 31 (Bloomberg) — Ties between Turkey and the U.S., already strained by disagreements over whether to sanction Iran for its nuclear program, may fray further after Israeli troops stormed a ship carrying Turkish activists.
“It’s inevitable,” said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, a policy group. “There’s a real danger of exacerbation of tensions in the U.S.-Turkey relationship.”
Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists on six ships that made up the “Freedom Flotilla,” which was trying to break an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel has restricted the flow of people and goods into and out of Gaza since the territory was taken over by Hamas in 2007.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu postponed meetings in Washington today to attend an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and ask for a resolution condemning Israel’s actions. In the past, similar resolutions have been vetoed by the U.S., Israel’s closest ally.
“If the U.S. doesn’t give support for the Turkish move at the UN condemning Israel, which seems likely given the past history of such debates, these grave tensions between Turkey and Israel may well spill into the U.S.-Turkey relationship and expand,” Aliriza said.
Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council his government warned nations participating in the attempt to deliver aid to Gaza that the blockade would be enforced. Israel offered to transfer the supplies to Gaza, he said.
Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S., said in a telephone interview Turkey had received strong support from “friends and allies” for a resolution against Israel. He said Turkey didn’t have an indication of how the U.S. would vote.
“We have made our position very clear; we will be expecting a wise decision from our American friends,” Tan said in a telephone interview. “Whatever their motives are, this attack cannot be excused or accepted.”
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the Security Council the delivery of humanitarian aid by sea was inappropriate and irresponsible.
“Mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza,” he said. “These non-provocative and non- confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza.”
The U.S. “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said today.
Jon Alterman, who heads the Middle East program at CSIS, said anything short of “something that honors Turks’ belief that Turkish civilians were attacked” will strain relations between Turkey and the U.S….HERE’S MORE