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Israel scraps Turkey travel warning

Jerusalem, July 21, 2010

Israel has lifted an advisory against its citizens visiting Turkey, seeing reduced risk of violent protests over Israel's killing of nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship as well as an opportunity to patch up ties.

Revising a statement issued after the May 31 interception, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Tuesday said Israeli tourists or businesspeople in Turkey should steer clear of demonstrations and 'political arguments with the locals'.

'It has been a month and a half, there are no demonstrations, the street has pretty much calmed down,' the bureau's Elkana Har-Nof told Israel Radio on Wednesday.

He credited Turkey's police with keeping order and said there was no specific concern Israelis could be targets of organised violence.

'It's possible they won't be so welcome in the discos ... But the public reception is not within our purview,' Har-Nof said.

The raid led Turkey to recall its ambassador from Israel and cancel joint defence drills. Tourism operators say that of around 150,000 Israelis who had planned vacations in Turkey, two-thirds backed out. Turkish commercial aviation out of Tel Aviv has been cut.

'There is no information on preparations for terrorist attacks or anything else that would prevent Israelis from spending the summer in Turkey,' Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Army Radio.

'Maybe it (new advisory) will also contribute to warming up the atmosphere, which is frozen, though this is not the objective and not the motivation,' he said.

Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth daily said restoring tourism was among issues addressed by Netanyahu's envoy, Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, in a fence-mending meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Zurich on June 30.

A Turkish embassy spokeswoman said she knew of no such discussion of tourism nor of any plans to return Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol to Israel, which long saw in Turkey a trading partner and strategic Muslim ally.

Israel defended its marines' decision to open fire aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, saying they came under attack by activists wielding clubs, knives and a gun.

World fury at the bloodshed prompted Israel to ease land commerce with the blockaded Palestinian territory and set up two internal inquiries. That fell short of Ankara's demand for an apology and an international investigation with wider powers. – Reuters




Tags: gaza | Turkey | Israel | Jerusalem | travel warning |

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