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Turkey To Freeze Relations With Israel
Thursday, 17-Jun-2010 9:05AM United Press International
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ANKARA, Turkey, June 17 (UPI) -- Turkey will freeze relations and halt billions of dollars in defense deals with Israel after Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship, Turkey said.

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Turkey is also preparing to issue sanctions against Israel as a step toward completely cutting off diplomatic relations, President Abdullah Gul said in a statement.

He earlier said the government in Ankara would "never forgive" Israel for the May 31 raid, which killed nine pro-Palestinian activists, including eight Turks and a Turkish-American teenager.

The attack in international waters drew intense international protest and prompted Turkey to withdraw its ambassador.

Turkey was the first Muslim nation to recognize Israel, and Turkey is Israel's most important Muslim ally.

The planned severing of ties, which would not affect private business, includes scrapping a $5 billion Turkish deal for Israeli-made battle tanks, $800 million for Israeli patrol jets and $707.5 million for F-4 and F-5 jet fighters, diplomatic officials told Today's Zaman, one of two English-language Turkish dailies.

Turkey wants Israel to apologize for the raid, which Israel's refuses to do. It also wants the seized ships returned and for Israel to agree to an international investigation into the raid.

Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-owned ship leading a six-vessel convoy trying to reach Hamas-run Gaza. Israel says its soldiers were attacked by activists on board the ship before they opened fire in self-defense.

Israel's cabinet Thursday said it would liberalize its 3-year-old restrictions on importing some internationally supervised civilian materials by land, but made no promise to lift its naval embargo.

Security checks would remain in place to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza, Israel said in a statement.

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