Israel 'isolated' as Mideast-Asia forum condemns ship raid

ISTANBUL, Nicolas Cheviron - Asian and Middle Eastern leaders united in condemning an Israeli deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships at a security summit Tuesday, as host nation Turkey warned Israel was "isolated" in the region.
Twenty-one states -- all the members of the CICA Asia security forum except Israel -- backed the text issued in Istanbul denouncing the May 31 assault on on a flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) with Turkish President Abdullah Gul (right)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) with Turkish President Abdullah Gul (right)
The presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, as well as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas were among the leaders present for the summit.
Together they "expressed their grave concern and condemnation for the actions undertaken by the Israeli Defence Forces" and denounced a "blatant violation" of international law.
The states said they "deeply deplored" the killing of nine Turkish activists and lent support for the United Nations to set up an international commission to investigate the raid.
"This is a clear manifestation of how Israel has isolated itself," Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who chaired the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), told reporters.
The raid on the flotilla seeking to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip sparked global outrage and plunged Israel's already strained ties with NATO member Turkey, once a close ally, into deep crisis.
"It is impossible for us to forgive" the bloodshed, Gul said.
"This can be repaired a bit only if they (the Israelis) make up for that in an acceptable way. Otherwise, it is impossible for Turkey to forget that," he added.
Ankara has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and said that economic and defence ties with Israel would be reduced to a "minimum level".
Putin said Russia would raise at the United Nations the controversial issue of who should investigate the Israeli raid, which he denounced as "a crude violation" of international law.
"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 told reporters.
Turkey said Monday that normalisation of ties with Israel would be "out of the question" if it failed to agree to an international probe, a move the Jewish state has so far rejected.
On Tuesday Israel outlined plans to hold its own limited probes into the deadly raid, which will look exclusively into the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza and of the May 31 raid.
But the United States, Israel's closest ally, on Tuesday added its voice to the chorus calling for an international probe, echoing similar remarks by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
Tuesday's condemnation was issued as part of "the chairman's conclusions" to the summit, since a formal joint declaration would have required a consensus, which Israel's participation made impossible, Gul said.
Israeli leaders shunned the Istanbul event, although Israeli ambassador to Turkey Gabby Levy took part.
"An overwhelming majority" of the participants also called for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons -- an appeal that appeared to target Iran, which the West suspects of secretly developing an atomic bomb, and Israel, widely believed to be the region's sole if undeclared nuclear power.
The CICA group was set up in 2002 on a proposal by Kazakhstan to promote peace, security and stability in Asia.
With the admission of Iraq and Vietnam on Tuesday, the number of its members reached 22, some with a history of mutual hostility such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Its other members are Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
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 Tehran.
Ankara'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.

Wednesday, June 9th 2010
Nicolas Cheviron

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