U.S. Congress members to Turkey's Erdogan: Stop Gaza flotilla
36 members of the U.S. House sign letter addressed to Turkish PM urging him to stop another attempt 'to provoke a confrontation with Israel.'
Members of the U.S. Congress issued a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in which they urge Turkey's premier to stop the departure of another flotilla to the Gaza Strip.
"We write today to express our serious concern over reports that the so-called Free Gaza Movement and the IHH are planning to send another flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks to provoke a confrontation with Israel", read a signed letter by 36 members of Congress initiated by Rep. Steve Israel.
"As members of the United States House of Representatives we ask you to help discourage these efforts and work with the Israeli government in a productive way as it continues to allow legitimate aid, but not weapons, to enter Gaza."
The letter further stressed that the Israeli government has "a right and responsibility" to protect its people, emphasizing that the "threat facing Israel by weapons smuggled into Gaza is real."
Congress members urged Erdogan to stop the flotilla from departing in order to prevent another confrontation such as last May's from happening again.
"If flotilla organizers carry out their confrontational plans, the Israelis will have little choice but to board the vessels and search for weapons. We fear violence could erupt just as it did last year," the letter warned.
The letter signatories expressed hope that the Turkish government will work out with Israel an alternative way to allow "legitimate humanitarian assistance" into Gaza.
"By finding a constructive solution as an alternative to another flotilla, you have a unique opportunity to potentially save lives and be a force for stability at a particularly volatile time," the letter concluded.
Meanwhile, Turkey's Erdogan said in an interview with U.S. television late Wednesday that Hamas is not a terror organization but a political party. He also said the recently penned Palestinian reconciliation agreement was an essential step toward Mideast peace.