A week after the Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship, which left nine people dead, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would "no longer be silent on Gaza becoming a giant prison."
Speaking at a joint press conference with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Istanbul on Monday, Erdogan called on Israel "to put an end to the occupation of Arab lands", and on the Palestinian factions to arrive at a truce.
Erdogan said that Ankara would continue to patiently follow the efforts to establish an international commission of inquiry into the raid. "Israel must pay the price for what happened," he said.
During the press conference, Assad conveyed his condolences for the deaths of Turkish citizens in the Gaza flotilla raid, saying they lost their lives "in a heinous crime, while defending a just cause. They are shahids in heaven.
"This is not the first time Israel commits crimes, but in this case it failed to label its victims as 'terrorists'," said the Syrian leader.
"We all know that the activists were not even allowed to carry knives. What happened was not the result of a mistake on the part of the (Israeli) soldiers or an erroneous government decision – it was Israeli instinct. Turkish blood and Arab blood are one and the same. We will not forget the Ottoman Empire's opposition to the attempts to establish a Jewish state on Palestinian lands," Assad said.
Addressing the indirect talks with Israel, which were suspended after Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza in late 2009, Assad said, "Israel thwarted the (negotiations) because it is addicted to mediation that is biased in its favor. Israel wanted to exact a price from Turkey for its efforts to promote peace, but (Israel) must know that if continues along its current path and continue with the occupation – this will solidify its status as an enemy of peace in the world."
Roee Nahmias contributed to the report