Erdoğan says ‘No normalization with Israel until Gaza siege lifted’



Turkish PM Erdoğan cools talks of progress on normalization, saying apology and compensation for 2010 flotilla victims is not sufficient.

By i24NEWS


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put a damper on reports that Ankara and Jerusalem were approaching normalization of ties Tuesday, demanding a written Israeli promise that it will lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip as a condition for signing a reconciliation agreement.

Turkish PM Erdogan

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan addresses members of the parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on January 28, 2014 – Photo: Adem Altan /AFP

Addressing reporters in Ankara alongside Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Erdoğan said that negotiations with Israel have progressed, but have not ended. Erdoğan said that while Turkey has received an apology from Israel for the killing of nine of its citizens during a 2010 commando raid on the blockade busting Mavi Marmara, and talks over compensation for the families of those killed and wounded were ongoing, the lifting of the siege over the Gaza Strip – which was one of the conditions set by Turkey for normalizing relations – has not happened yet.

“Nothing will happen without lifting the siege on Gaza,” said Erdoğan.

Things sounded more upbeat earlier in the week when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu acknowledged there had been a “momentum” in talks in order to bridge the gaps.

“It would not be correct to provide a timeframe on such [delicate] issues but I can say that serious progress has been made in recent meetings,” Davutoglu told Turkish television.

On Monday an unnamed Turkish official told AFP that the sides’ negotiators are close to striking a long-awaited deal on compensation for Turkish victims of the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla four years ago.

Talks on compensation began in March 2013 after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended a formal apology to Turkey in a breakthrough phone call to Erdoğan brokered by US President Barack Obama.

Turkish foreign ministry undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu was in Israel earlier this month to discuss the terms of an agreement, which will help normalise relations between the Jewish state and its once closest Muslim ally.

“A historic step was taken with the apology… Now a second step will be taken with the compensation,” he said.

“We are going through a period where the relations are the closest to normalization after Mavi Marmara”.

The assault triggered an international outcry and a severe diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel, with Ankara expelling the Israeli ambassador, demanding a formal apology and compensation.

Israeli media reports have said the compensation talks were revived in December when Israeli negotiators traveled to Istanbul and Turkey lowered its demands, which was neither confirmed nor denied by the Turkish side.

The amount of compensation to be paid, as well as the legality of a final agreement, are believed to be sticking points but the two sides appear to be narrowing their differences.

Last week, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel has offered $20 million in compensation to the families of those killed and wounded in the flotilla raid.

Western diplomats quoted by the paper said Ankara had demanded $30 million, but Israel was initially willing to give only $15 million.

Netanyahu later decided to up Israel’s offer to $20 million, with an extra $3 million available “if necessary to secure an agreement”, the paper said.

Davutoglu refused to disclose the amount of compensation being sought but hinted at “some positive developments.”

He also said he was in constant touch with Erdoğan to discuss future steps to be taken after a deal including the appointment of an ambassador to Israel.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight naval and ground blockade of the Palestinian enclave since Hamas ousted the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in 2007. Since then Israel has carried out two major military operations in an effort to stop Gaza-based militants from shooting rockets at its southern communities and has constantly carried out airstrikes against terrorist targets in response to sporadic rocket fire.

Egypt, since the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last year by the military, has cracked down on widespread smuggling into the strip, in effect choking the local economy.

Erdoğan’s steep demand from Israel comes as he is facing unprecedented criticism at home over a probe that disclosed widespread government corruption and a series of strong-arm tactics, most recently the legislation of tough new Internet curbs, seen by many as a form of censorship.

Erdoğan on Tuesday vehemently rejected the criticism, saying the legislation was necessary to stop “cyber bullies running wild.”

“Nobody will be tapped. Nobody’s (personal) data on the Internet will be stored. Nobody’s freedom will be breached,” Erdoğan told his ruling party lawmakers in parliament.


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