Israeli PM Netanyahu calls on Turkey to ‘restore relations we once had’

Prime minister cites instability in region as driving force behind the need for the 2 former allies to resolve grievances • “Turkey & Israel are two important, strong & stable states in this region … it is important, particularly now, for stability in the region in these times.”

By Shlomo Cesana, Eli Leon, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel and its former ally Turkey must repair their relationship because of the instability in the region.

“Turkey and Israel are two important, strong and stable states in this region … We must find ways to restore the relations we once had … it is important, particularly now, for stability in the region in these times,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Turkish journalists this week.
Photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO

It said he gave the message to Turkish journalists in a meeting late on Monday.

While the statement gave no reason for the timing of his comments, both Israel and Turkey border Syria.

Turkey has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to quit after he failed to heed calls for reform and the country has harbored Syrian rebels and tens of thousands of refugees along its border with Syria.

In Israel, Syria’s 16-month-old conflict has spread concern that its chemical arsenal could fall into the hands of Hezbollah.

Numerous attempts by Israel and Turkey to rekindle their once-close strategic relationship have failed. Israel has rejected Ankara’s demands for a formal apology, compensation for the families of those killed in the Mavi Marmara raid and end to the Gaza blockade.

In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos were attacked by passengers on the Mavi Marmara after boarding the ship to enforce Israel’s naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish nationals were killed in the ensuing violence and several Israeli soldiers were wounded.

There was no indication in Netanyahu’s statement that Israel would change its stance and meet any of Turkey’s demands.

A U.N. inquiry involving Israeli and Turkish representatives last September largely exonerated Israel’s Gaza strategy and the interception of the Mavi Marmara, though it faulted the navy for excessive force.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with Turkish journalists Sunday night. According to Turkish media outlets, he told them that he “sees no reason why Israel must apologize” to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident, but that Israel is prepared to discuss the issue as part of a package deal with Turkey aimed at reviving diplomatic ties between the countries.

The English-language Turkish daily, Today’s Zaman, said the “hawkish” Lieberman was “surprisingly” moderate in regards to finding a solution to the Mavi Marmara incident, which, according to the Turkish daily, he called an “accident.”

“I don’t think we are absolutely right. [And] I don’t think we are absolutely wrong. [The] truth is in the middle,” he said, reportedly adding that it would not be a realistic approach to put all the blame on Israel.

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