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Gaza Flotilla: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Insists That Israel Apologize To Turkey

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RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speaks before the military parade in the Turkish occupied area of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias) | AP

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's prime minister on Saturday ruled out a normalization of ties with Israel unless the Jewish state "officially apologizes" for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last year.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said relations cannot be improved unless Israel also pays compensation to the families of nine Turkish victims and lifts its embargo on Gaza. Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment.

"We did not and will not forget the massacre of our brothers," Erdogan told a meeting of Palestinian ambassadors in Istanbul that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also attending. "No belief ... can justify the barbaric and cruel killing of innocent people."

Israel has insisted its soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists when they boarded the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. But a Turkish investigation revealed that two activists were killed before commandos boarded the ship and another died "execution-style" as he lay injured.

The commando raid sparked condemnation worldwide and led to an easing of Israel's blockade on the coastal territory. It further damaged already strained relations with Turkey, formerly one of Israel's closest allies in the region.

Erdogan has also voiced support for the recognition of a Palestinian state and accused Israel of using excessive force against the Palestinians.

The Turkish prime minister also criticized the United Nations and the United States for turning a blind eye to Israel's "spoiled practices."

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