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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
El Al suspends all Turkey flights
El Al plane
El Al says is trying to find alternative flights for stranded passengers
Israeli airline El Al has suspended all its flights to Turkey in a row over security in Istanbul.

The suspension, which started on Thursday, has left air passengers stranded in both Turkey and Israel.

The dispute follows weeks of growing tension between the two countries' governments, after Turkey's prime minister criticised Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

But the row is thought to be unrelated to Thursday's bomb attacks in Turkey.

The flights were halted after reports that the number of Israeli guards permitted at Istanbul had been reduced.

According to Israel Radio, the decision to stop El Al's six weekly flights to Istanbul was taken on the advice of Israel's Shin Bet security service.

We hope this crisis will be resolved soon
El Al spokesman

Media reports said Turkey had unilaterally changed security arrangements covering the number of Israeli security staff permitted at Istanbul's Attaturk international airport.

The weapons they were permitted to carry and their terms of operation were also said to have been changed.

There was no independent confirmation from El Al of the exact nature of the dispute.

But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman David Saranga said his office was holding "intensive and ongoing contact with the Turkish authorities to try to find a solution".

An El Al official said the airline was trying to help passengers stranded in both Israel and Turkey to find other flights.

"We intend to find solutions for all our passengers," said Itamar Bartuv. "We hope this crisis will be resolved soon."


Other airlines' flights between Israel and Turkey were not hit.

Tension between the two governments increased last month when Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of using "state terror" in a raid in the Gaza Strip.

The row was reignited when US media reports accused Israel of training Kurdish commando units in northern Iraq.

Turkey has a mainly Muslim population but a secular government, and until the row erupted was a close regional ally of Israel.

Turkish envoys in Israel recalled
08 Jun 04  |  Middle East
Turkey slams 'Israeli terrorism'
03 Jun 04  |  Middle East

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