Turkey said on Thursday it had received a request from Israel to help stop activists sailing to Gaza on the first anniversary of an Israeli raid on a Turkish ship, but it said the flotilla plan was not Ankara's concern.
Turkey, a secular Muslim nation, has been an important regional ally of Israel for more than a decade. Following the deadly raid on the Marmara, it has scaled back ties, demanding Israel apologize and pay damages for last year's raid.
The Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist umbrella group, has said that a flotilla expected in late May would comprise 15 ships with international passengers including Europeans and Americans.
Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, asked the Turkish government this week to help stop the activists, saying sending humanitarian aide to Gaza outside legal channels was a "provocation," an Israeli diplomatic official told Reuters.
Asked about the request, a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters: "We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society." The official did not elaborate.
The IHH, the Turkish Islamist charity that owned the Mavi Marmara ship which was raided by the Israeli commandos, has said it will join the "Freedom Flotilla II". It also plans to send its own convoy led by the Mavi Marmara after Turkey's general election on June 12.
Israel has also asked the United Nations to help stop the activists. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the mission of ships "was being organized by Islamic extremist elements" intent on bringing about "a flare-up."
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