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Cameron describes Gaza as 'prison camp'

By Felicity Spector, Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 July 2010

David Cameron has described Gaza as a "prison camp" during an official visit to Turkey. The prime minister said it is a situation which must not be allowed to remain, writes Felicity Spector for Channel 4 News.

Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the media in Ankara on his visit to Turkey. (Credit: Reuters)

Mr Cameron urged Israel to allow goods and people to flow freely in and out of the territory. And he denounced Israel's attack on the Turkish-led aid flotilla to Gaza in May, calling it "completely unacceptable."

All that was rather provocative language for some quarters - language which a British prime minister should perhaps be wary of using.

But speaking later at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan, Mr Cameron stood by his comments. "I speak as someone who is a friend of Israel", he said, before going on to describe Gaza as "a sort of open-air prison" - while Mr Erdogan likened the Israeli raid on the flotilla to international piracy.

However the main thrust of Mr Cameron's speech to business leaders in Ankara was an impassioned defence of Turkish membership of the European Union and his anger that progress was being frustrated by countries he said saw the world "through a prism of a clash of civilisations".

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There was particular criticism for France and Germany - which Mr Cameron accused of double standards by shutting Ankara out.

He said: "My view is clear. I believe it is just wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent."

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel has called for Turkey to be given a "privileged partnership" instead of full membership: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has also opposed Turkey's plans to join the EU.

So Mr Cameron's central message - to depict Turkey as a crucial bridge between Europe and the Islamic world, "instead of choosing between east and west, Turkey has chosen both".

He also claimed Ankara could wield the greatest influence over Iran - and its nuclear ambitions. "It's Turkey that can help us stop Iran from getting the bomb", he claimed.

Before flying to India - Mr Cameron is due to sign a "strategic partnership" accord with Mr Erdogan, strengthening defence and trade links and setting out plans for future co-operation.

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