Turkey Excludes Israel Envoy From State Dinner Over Gaza Flotilla Raid

Ambassador Gabi Levi not invited to annual dinner marking end of Ramadan fast in what AK party official calls a message to Israel over its policies.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's religious party has excluded Israel's envoy from the annual dinner marking the end of the Muslim month-long fast of Ramadan, over outrage regarding Israel's deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla in May, Turkish media reported Saturday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan

According to the reports, Ambassador Gabi Levi was not invited to the Eid al-Fitr dinner, to which the ruling party has invited all the diplomats in the country for the last four years.

During a press conference AK party chairman of foreign relations committee, Omer Çelik, said “the reason for not inviting the Israeli ambassador is not on a personal level,” but rather a symbolic act against Israel's policies.

He added that “anyone who is unjust or inequitable can not pass the threshold of the Justice and Development party’s headquarters.”

The Foreign ministry said in response that "once again it appears that Erdogan is initiating an escalation and searching for it," adding that "we will behave responsibly and not be pulled into the Turkish sword dance."

Israel's May 31 raid on the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-flagged lead ship in the flotilla, plunged relations between the erstwhile allies into deep crisis.

Turkey last week announced that it has set up its own inquiry into Israel's raid on the Turkish-flagged ship that left nine Turkish citizens dead.

The probe will work under the office of Prime Minister's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and will "investigate the attack and the treatment the activists faced" before reporting on its findings, the ministry said in a statement.

After the Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid convoy in May Turkey announced that it was recalling its ambassador to Israel putting a further strain on the two counties' diplomatic ties.

Earlier this year, Israel sparked outrage when Turkish envoy Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, summoned by Ayalon over an anti-Israeli television show aired in Turkey, was made to sit in a chair lower than that of Ayalon, while the Turkish flag was deliberately not put on display.

Ayalon issued a formal apology to Ankara at President Shimon Peres' request, and at the culmination of day-long consultations between Ankara and Jerusalem, after the Turks announced that Ayalon's first apology was insufficient.