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Report: Israel PM 'snubs Clinton' over Turkey apology

Aug. 17, 2011 3:58 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 18, 2011 11:54 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel has rejected a US request to apologize to Turkey over its 2010 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.

Unsourced reports by Israel's two main radio stations said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday with a direct request that he make an apology -- but he turned her down.

"He said Israel has no intention of apologizing at this time and that he is waiting for the publication of a report by the UN secretary general," army radio said.

A United Nations report into the flotilla affair, whose publication has been postponed at least twice this year to allow time for the two sides to reconcile their differences, is due to be released on August 20.

Israeli daily Ynet earlier reported that Israeli diplomats in Washington had passed on a message from Clinton saying the Israel-Turkey crisis was interfering with US attempts to deal with the bloodshed in Syria.

A similar message was given to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he visited Washington in late July, when Clinton asked him to do everything in his power to resolve the crisis -- "including apologize," the paper said.

In May 2010, Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish ferry leading a six-ship flotilla attempting to break Israel's naval embargo on the Gaza Strip.

The botched operation left nine Turkish nationals dead and sparked a diplomatic crisis with Ankara, which immediately recalled its ambassador.

Since then, Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the bloodshed, as well as compensation for the victims' families.

Israel has steadfastly refused, although privately officials acknowledge that restoring the once-strong relationship with Ankara would be desirable.

The United States is looking to deepen its ties with Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, in a bid to better handle Syria's spiraling violence, and hopes an Israeli apology would facilitate that, Ynet said.
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