BBC News | Monday, 28 June 2010 | 11:16 GMT
Turkey has barred an Israeli military flight from Turkish airspace, in apparent retaliation for Israel’s raid on an aid convoy bound for Gaza. Turkey’s prime minister confirmed that a "ban" had been implemented following the 31 May raid, in which nine Turkish citizens on the flotilla were killed. Military flight bans are now being considered on a case-by-case basis, Turkish officials said. The banned flight was carrying Israeli officers to Poland to tour Auschwitz. The plane was denied permission to cross Turkish airspace and was therefore forced to fly an alternative route. Meanwhile, Israel’s commission of inquiry into the flotilla raid opened on Monday.
A senior Turkish foreign ministry official told the BBC there was now an official policy in place of banning Israeli military aircraft from Turkish airspace, but on a case-by-case basis. He said it was not necessarily a blanket ban, but would depend of the kind of flight and the state of relations between Turkey and Israel at the time. The official said this particular flight was banned purely because it had been the first such request from Israel and had nothing to do with the nature of the flight. Civilian flights are unaffected. Reports first surfaced in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that an Israeli military cargo plane, carrying more than 100 officers on their way to Auschwitz, was barred from Turkish airspace.
At the G20 summit in Toronto, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was asked by a reporter if the ban was related to the flotilla raid. Mr Erdogan confirmed that "we started the ban after these events", according to a report by Turkish news agency Anatolia. The Israeli raid on the aid flotilla drew international condemnation. The six-ship flotilla was trying to break a blockade of Gaza that Israel says is needed to prevent weapons reaching militants in the territory. Israeli commandos descended from helicopters on to the largest ship, the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara, in international waters about 130km (80 miles) from the Israeli coast.
The activists say the commandos started shooting as soon as they hit the deck. Israeli officials say the commandos fired in self-defence. Turkey reacted angrily to the raid, withdrawing its ambassador and cancelling joint military exercises. It wants an apology from Israel and an international investigation. Israel has refused to co-operate with an independent international inquiry. Its own inquiry opened on Monday. Commission head Jacob Turkel said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would appear, as would the defence minister and military chief of staff. There are two international observers.