Israel's prime minister on Sunday defiantly refused to apologize to Turkey for his military's deadly raid last year on a Turkish-led flotilla bent on breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
In his first public remarks since Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador over the killings, Benjamin Netanyahu repeated Israel's "regret" for the murders.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos raided a humanitarian aid flotilla heading for Gaza, killing nine Turkish nationals one of whom was a U.S. citizen.
Turkey said after the attack that it expected Israel to make a formal apology, pay a certain compensation to the families of the victims and to end its blockade over Gaza.
The report said Israel's raid of the vessels was "excessive and unreasonable," while the flotilla acted "recklessly" in attempting to break the naval blockade. It also said the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza was "legal".
But, "We don't have to apologize for acting to defend our civilians, our children and our communities," Netanyahu told his Cabinet and journalists.
But he tempered those tough words by telling Turkey that Israel "expresses regret" over the deaths.
"I hope we will find a way to overcome the dispute with Turkey," Netanyahu said. "Israel never wanted ties with Turkey to deterioriate, and Israel does not now seek a deterioration of ties."
"Promise to protect troops"
Meanwhile, Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu unveiled a series of decisions concerning Turkish-Israeli relations.
The measures included downgrading Turkish-Israeli diplomatic ties to the level of a second-secretary, suspension of military agreements, measures pertaining to freedom of navigation in the Eastern Mediterranean and demanding a review of the Israeli blockade over Gaza by the International Court of Justice.
Turkey said it will now pursue criminal cases against Israeli officials responsible for the killings on board the Marmara, which the crew said was delivering aid to Gaza.
Ankara also said on Saturday it would apply for an investigation by the International Court of Justice into its legality .
"To the naval commandos I want to say: In the same way that you and the rest of the IDF's (Israel Defence Force's) soldiers protect us, we will defend you in every place and at every forum," Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting.
Turkey's prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, regarded as a hero in the Muslim world for championing the Palestinian cause, is expected to go to Egypt later this month.
A security source in the Gaza Strip said Erdogan was planning to visit the territory, which shares a border with Egypt. There has been no official announcement of a Gaza visit.
AgenciesLast Mod: 04 Eylül 2011, 17:57