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Turkey\'s Erdogan accuses Israel of war crimes, demands apology

Turkish military in maneuvers with Chinese

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Turkey\'s Erdogan accuses Israel of war crimes, demands apology

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused Israel of committing state terrorism during the May 31 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident and warned that Israel must apologize for its interception of the ships and compensate the families of those who were killed during the incident, or risk being isolated throughout the region.

Erdogan’s statements come just a few days after Turkish lawyers for the pro-Palestinian activists aboard the Mavi Marmara filed a complaint against Israel in the International Criminal Court, charging Israel with committing war crimes.

Meanwhile, Defense News reported on Monday that Turkey hosted the Chinese Air Force in war games in mid September, just a few months after loudly dis-inviting Israel for the annual NATO Anatolian Eagle air warfare exercise.

The fleet of Chinese Su-27 and Mig-29 fighter aircraft flew through Pakistan, refueled in Iran and joined Turkish aircraft in the same air space where Israeli aircraft are no longer welcome and US aircraft are being met with an increasingly chilly response.

"The exercises did not intend to be a first and last of their kind. There is every indication to believe that the two militaries will engage in future cooperation wherever applicable," a London-based Turkey specialist said. "The drills should be seen as a debut." Chinese officials warmly agreed with the assessment, even as US officials quietly voiced deep unease at the maneuvers.

"Each year, we are holding joint exercises with dozens of countries, and China is one of the nations with which we are developing cooperation," insisted one Turkish official. "There is no need to seek hidden or deep motives behind this [joint exercise]."

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made a historic visit to Ankara on October 8, during which time he signed eight landmark agreements with Erdogan covering the fields of commerce, culture and transportation. The two leaders announced plans to raise bilateral trade levels, now at $17 billion per year, to $50 billion over the next five years, using their own national currencies, the lira and the yuan, in bilateral trade and shunning the US dollar.

Turkey has also held joint land warfare exercises with Syria in the last year, amid what many Western analysts worry is the beginning of a trend of Turkey turning Eastward away from its traditional alignment with Israel and the West.

That turn to the East was also apparent on Sunday when Turkish representatives met with foreign ministers from the oil sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for a conference aimed at boosting economic and political ties and the signing of a free trade agreement.

The GCC signed a memorandum of understanding with Turkey in 2008 to achieve a strategic partnership in all fields, and bilateral trade has increased from $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros) in 1999 to $17.5 billion (12.5 billion euros) in 2008, with Turkish exports to the GCC rising 15 fold in 2008 alone.


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