5 September 2011
Veteran diplomat Özdem Sanberk, the retired ambassador who represented Turkey on the U.N. panel investigating the deadly Mavi Marmara raid, has become the subject of criticism over the panel’s report, which Turkey rejected as one-sided.
“Sanberk should not have appeared in the happy picture taken when the report was submitted, despite his reservations, to the U.N. secretary-general. I think he could have nixed the release of the report if he had resigned from the team instead of just stating his reservations,” said Volkan Bozkýr, an Istanbul deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, who joined the party recently after retiring from the Foreign Ministry.
The leak of the report’s content late last week by the New York Times widened the rift between Turkey and Israel over last year’s Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turks onboard the Gaza-bound aid ship. The report is expected to be officially released Tuesday by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Turkey described the report as “null and void,” saying it primarily adopted the Israeli perspective on the deadly raid. The panel’s report also upheld the legality of Israel’s navy blockade against Gaza, deepening Ankara’s frustration. There have been unconfirmed reports that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutođlu was unhappy about Sanberk’s performance during the process of putting together the panel’s report.
“The commission failed to be an objective commission. It contained Turkish and Israeli representatives. The Turkish representative put his reservations on almost all conclusions of the report,” Bozkýr wrote Sunday in a message on the social-networking website Twitter. The Istanbul deputy, who heads up Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, also urged Turkey to take more caution against this type of behind-the-scenes intrigue in international platforms and courts.
Despite Bozkýr’s criticisms of Sanberk, others in Ankara believe the retired ambassador should not be made a scapegoat because any failures with the report are due to collective mistakes. Members of this camp say Turkish diplomacy ignored the ability of the pro-Israel lobby to influence such commissions, and that singling out the commission’s president and vice president, Geoffrey Palmer and Alvaro Uribe, to write the report’s conclusions was a mistake made at the beginning of the process.
The head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, shared similar views about the report’s conclusions in a statement over the weekend. “If you hit the road without making the necessary plans, it is only natural to hit the wall. This is a really sad picture regarding our foreign policy,” said CHP chief Kemal Kýlýçdarođlu.
Noting that the U.N. report deemed the naval blockade imposed by Israel to be legal, he added: “Israel will say the U.N.’s conclusions approved the naval blockade. What caused this? The Mavi Marmara incident. It shows that you have to ponder these things from the very beginning. Turkey’s interests should not have been spoiled for small incidents.”
The reservations Sanberk lodged to the report’s content mainly focused on its conclusions about the legality of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel. In part, he wrote: “The Chairmanship and its report fully associated itself with Israel and categorically dismissed the views of the other [side], despite the fact that the legal arguments presented by Turkey have been supported by the vast majority of the international community. Common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful.”
In his reservations, Sanberk also wrote: “The wording in the report is not satisfactory in describing the actual extent of the atrocities to which the victims were subjected. This includes the scope of the maltreatment suffered by the passengers at the hands of Israeli soldiers and officials.”