ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is preparing to challenge Israel's blockade on Gaza at the International Court of Justice, the foreign minister said Saturday, ratcheting up tensions between the once close allies.
Ahmet Davutoglu's comments came a day after Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador and severed military ties with the country over its refusal to apologize for last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine pro-Palestinian activists.
In an interview with Turkey's state-run TRT television, Davutoglu dismissed a U.N. report into the raid that said Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was a legal security measure. Davutoglu said the report — prepared by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and presented to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon — was not endorsed by the United Nations and was therefore not binding.
"What is binding is the International Court of Justice," Davutoglu said. "This is what we are saying: Let the International Court of Justice decide."
"We are starting the necessary legal procedures this coming week," he said.
But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said his country has nothing to apologize for and that it has done all it could to avoid a crisis with Turkey. He said the Turks apparently intended to raise tensions with Israel for its own reasons.
"They were not ready for a compromise and kept raising the threshold," Ayalon said on Israeli TV Saturday. "I think we need to say to the Turks: As far as we are concerned, this saga is behind us. Now we need to cooperate. Lack of cooperation harms not only us, but Turkey as well."