UNITED NATIONS - Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Sunday that his country's "broken" relations with Israel can only be mended if the Jewish state stops blocking aid flotillas and ends the embargo of Gaza. Erdogan said Turkey had been exceedingly patient with Israel — formerly viewed as an ally — despite relations strained after Israeli troops stormed a flotilla last year.
"I can clearly and frankly state that the relations between Israel and Turkey had been broken on the basis of an issue that is being raised by Israel, which began when the flotilla bearing humanitarian aid was trying to get to Gaza. It had passengers from 33 different countries and was attacked both from the sea and the air," Erdogan told CNN's "GPS" program.
"We have been very patient. We demand they apologize, pay compensation and eliminate the embargo on Gaza once and for all," he said.
"If these demands are not met, the relations between Turkey and Israel will never become normal again."
He repeated an earlier declaration that Turkish warships could be dispatched to protect future aid shipments to Gaza.
"In this situation... democracy, rights and freedom should be defended," said Erdogan, who warned that Israel risked increasing isolation.
"If you are insistent on creating a source of unrest, you are bound to become lonelier and lonelier," the Turkish leader said.
"They used to be great friends of ours, (but) solitude is Israel's fate under these circumstances. Israel is going to be alone in the region."
Erdogan was making reference to the clash on May 31 last year when Israeli commandos boarded a six-boat flotilla in international waters in a bid to stop it from breaching Israel's blockade on Gaza.
Israeli troops killed nine Turkish nationals on the ship Mavi Marmara in the ensuing confrontation, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries that has strained relations to breaking point. (AFP)