Erdogan says he will boycott int'l conference if Netanyahu attends

Published 20.10.2010 13:36

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will not attend an environmental conference in Greece on Friday if his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, will also be there.

Speaking in an interview with the Greek Skai TV station on Monday, Erdoğan announced his decision to boycott the Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative, which will be held in Athens on Friday, conditional on Netanyahu's presence. "If he takes part in this event, I will not be there," he said in the interview, which aired late on Monday. His remarks were in reaction to an Israeli assault on a peaceful aid convoy late in May as a result of which nine unarmed civilians were killed. Despite Turkish and international outrage, Netanyahu said he was proud of the Israeli commandos who took part in the operation. "A prime minister who is proud of such an armed intervention is a prime minister with whom I do not agree to talk," Erdoğan also said.

Netanyahu's name was not on the list of speakers on the conference's website, and Israel was not among the countries whose participation was confirmed.

An aid flotilla carrying over 600 peace activists from more than 30 countries including US and European citizens that aimed to break a three-year-long blockade on the narrow Gaza Strip was forcefully boarded by Israeli naval commandos in international waters, resulting in the killing of eight Turkish and one Turkish-American civilians.

"On this issue, I think that Israel is close to the point of losing a very important friend in the Middle East: Turkey," Erdoğan noted. "I think that they must pay for this audacity that characterizes the policy of this government," he also said, adding that neither he nor any Turkish government official will meet with Israeli authorities unless Israel takes the necessary steps. Turkey demands that Israel officially apologize for the violent attack and compensate the victims' families.

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