ISTANBUL Ã¢â‚¬â€ Turkey sought a fresh condemnation of Israel over its deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships as regional leaders gathered in Istanbul Tuesday to discuss security in Asia.
Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan as well as Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended the talks, expected to end with a joint declaration later Tuesday.
“There will probably be a condemnation of Israel in the final declaration,” a Turkish diplomat said.
Nine Turks were killed when Israeli forces raided a flotilla carrying aid to the besieged Gaza Strip on May 31, sparking global outrage and plunging already strained ties with NATO member Turkey, once a close ally, into deep crisis.
“The consequences of acts undertaken with feelings of hatred and vengeance are obvious. Unfortunately, we saw a merciless example of that recently,” Turkish President Abdullah Gul said at Tuesday’s summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA).
“We must definitely say ‘stop’ to this tendency which is extremely worrying with respect to international peace and security,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the gathering, Putin said that Russia would raise the controversial issue of who should investigate Israel’s deadly raid on the flotilla at the United Nations.
“We are deeply worried by such a crude violation of the universally recognized norms of international law,” he told reporters, stressing the raid took place in international waters in the Mediterranean.
“We can’t allow a new flame to flare up in the Middle East… We will raise the issue at the United Nations, we’re working at it,” he said.
Turkey said Monday that normalisation of ties with Israel would be “out of the question” if it failed to agree to an international probe into the bloody operation, a move the Jewish state has so far rejected.
Ankara has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and scrapped joint military drills, saying economic and defence ties with Israel would be reduced to a “minimum level.”
Israeli leaders were also invited to Tuesday’s summit, but only the country’s ambassador to Turkey attended the event.
The foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Pakistan condemned the raid after three-way talks with their Turkish counterpart Monday, stressing support for Ankara in the crisis.
Tuesday’s summit was to focus on issues such as nuclear disarmament, peaceful use of nuclear energy and confidence-building measures in Asia, the Turkish foreign ministry said.
CICA was set up in 2002 on a proposal by Kazakhstan with the aim of promoting peace, security and stability in Asia.
The group currently has 20 members, some of them countries with a history of hostility, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.
Turkey, a NATO member vying for European Union membership, has in recent years pushed for a greater say in the Middle East.
Together with Brazil, it brokered a nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran last month, but the proposed accord has been dismissed by the United States, which continues to push for fresh sanctions against the Islamic republic.
Turkey’s improving ties with Iran and Syria, against the backdrop of simmering tensions with Israel, have led to concerns that its governing party, the moderate offshoot of a banned Islamist movement, is shifting the country away from the West.