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Turkey warns of more sanctions against Israel

By Selcan Hacaoglu

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 6 2011 5:37 a.m. MDT

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that his government may impose more sanctions against Israel since it has refused to apologize for last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound protest flotilla, and he accused Israel of acting like the region's "spoiled boy."

Turkey already has suspended military ties with Israel, ordered its top diplomats out of the country by Wednesday and promised to lobby other nations to support a plan by Palestinians to seek recognition as a state at an annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

Erdogan did not say what the next round of sanctions could include.

Turkey last week told Israel to downgrade its diplomatic mission to the level of second-secretary while suspending military deals in response to Israel's refusal to apologize for the botched Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound protest flotilla, which killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists last year. Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives.

A U.N. report released last week called the Israeli raid "excessive and unreasonable," but also said Turkey and flotilla organizers contributed to the deaths.

"That report does not mean anything for us," Erdogan said Monday. "We will determinedly maintain this process. Diplomatic relations will be downgraded as of tomorrow, trade relations, military relations have been suspended."

Turkey did not imposed a trade embargo on Israel but suspended ongoing defense projects and purchases from Israeli defense firms.

"This process will be followed by very different types of sanctions," Erdogan said at a news conference, without elaborating.

Erdogan described the Israeli raid on the Turkish aid ship in international waters of the Mediterranean as "savagery," and he accused Israel of acting like "a spoiled boy" in the region.

Turkey last week also promised to ensure "freedom of navigation" in the eastern Mediterranean. "From now on, Turkish warships will show themselves quite often in these waters," Erdogan said.

He also reiterated his intention to visit the Gaza Strip, possibly early next week, after a stop in Egypt. "We will make our final decision after consulting with our Egyptian friends. There may be a visit to Gaza or not. It is not certain.

Such a trip would make Erdogan the first world leader to officially visit the area since the Hamas militants seized control of it.

Erdogan enjoys strong popularity in Gaza for his stance against Israel.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

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