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Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks to the press after announcing the expulsion of Israel's ambassador on Friday. AP

Turkey launches international legal challenge to Gaza blockade

Turkey will bring a complaint to the International Court of Justice, after expelling Israel’s ambassador and cutting military ties.

TURKEY IS TO LAUNCH an international legal complaint against Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza strip, after expelling Israel’s ambassador and severing military ties with the country.

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told state TV that his country had dismissed an official UN report into the blockade, which led to the deaths of nine Turkish activists and the wounding of seven Israeli soldiers aboard an aid flotilla during an armed standoff in May 2010.

That UN report – which found that Israel had acted legally to secure its territory, but said the killing of the activists was “unacceptable” – had not been ‘endorsed’ by the UN and was therefore not a binding opinion, PA quoted Davutoglu as saying.

“What is binding is the International Court of Justice. This is what we are saying: let the International Court of Justice decide,” he said, adding that procedures to initiate the case would start this week.

Israel’s deputy foreign minister said his country had nothing to apologise for, and insisted that the problem was “on the Turkish side”.

“I think we need to say to the Turks, ‘As far as we are concerned, this saga is behind us.’ Now we need to co-operate. Lack of co-operation harms not only us, but Turkey as well,” the BBC quotes Danny Ayalon as telling Israeli national TV.

The Jerusalem Post quotes a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office which said Israel regretted the loss of life on board the ‘Freedom Flotilla’, but insisted that Israel had the right to defend its civilians and soldiers.

China’s Xinhua agency said the UN’s secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon had urged the two sides to mend their ties for the sake of greater stability in the region, expressing regret that the UN report had failed to unite the sides.

The International Court of Justice is a UN-sponsored body which rules on disputes between member states.

Amnesty International’s Phil Luther told AFP that he felt Turkey’s anger at the events was ‘understandable’.

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