Erdogan at UN: Israel Must Apologize for Flotilla Deaths

Speech at General Assembly comes on heels of UN report which says the Israeli blockade of Gaza is legal, but criticizes Israel for excessive use of force for its killing of 9 Turkish citizens aboard the Gaza flotilla in May 2010.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked Israel again on Thursday to apologize for the deaths of nine people on a Turkish ship that tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2010.

"Israel must apologize and compensate for the deaths of our martyrs and lift the economic blockade on Gaza," Erdogan said in his first address to the UN General Assembly.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, August 17, 2011.AFP

The nine people were killed on May 31, 2010, when Israeli commandos raided the Navi Marmara, the main ship of a flotilla that was trying to bring humanitarian assistance to Gazans. Eight were Turkish nationals and one was a Turkish American.

A UN report last month said the Israeli naval blockade is legal, but criticized Israel for excessive use of forces when its commandos intercepted the ship on the high seas and stopped the flotilla from reaching its target.

Turkey last month downgraded diplomatic relations and cancelled military talks with Israel after its demand for an apology and compensation was not met.

Erdogan urged the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestinian statehood and grant it UN membership.