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Turkey: We're waiting for Netanyahu
Senior official in Turkish Foreign Ministry sends Israel conciliatory message, says once crisis ends - prime minister more than welcome in Ankara

In front of the cameras Turkey may be displaying strong ties with Iran, but during the weekend, it sent a pacifying signal to Israel.

 

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been extremely tense, if not hostile, since the fatal flotilla raid three months ago. But over the weekend, a senior official at the Turkish Foreign Ministry sent Israel an appeasing message, hinting at the nearing renewal of relations between the two long-time allies.

 

In a conversation with Yedioth Ahronoth, the official said that if Israel successfully found a solution to the Marmara crisis, with the help of the international committee of inquiry established by UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, Turkey would gladly host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on its territory.

 

"When the time comes, if the crisis is resolved, this visit will be made possible," noted the official, adding that, "After all, Netanyahu has never visited Turkey."

 

The senior official said the increasing cooperation between Israel and Greece did not bother Turkey: "These two countries are our friends. If someone in Israel thinks Greece and Turkey are enemies, they are wrong.

 

"The only way to resolve the crisis is to correct the relationship, not to form alliances against us," he added.

 

The Foreign Ministry official stressed that Turkey hopes Israel will know how to take advantage of the UN international committee of inquiry in order to resolve the crisis.

 

"The best way to salvage the relations is to issue some sort of an apology and compensate the victims' families," he said, but did not specify the amount of compensations, adding that it was up to Israel to decide.

 

'Avoid escalation'

The source noted that the Turkish foreign minister and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer drafted a preliminary apology letter during a secret meeting in Brussels, but the effort was thwarted by another senior Israeli minister.

 

"We need to get through this tough patch, and then people will see that Turkey has not changed its basic position," said the source.

 

"People have short memories. They forget that (Turkish Prime Minister) Erdogan visited Israel, and that President Peres delivered a speech in front of the Turkish Parliament," he said.

 

"If the Turkish government has an anti-Israeli agenda, would we have done such things? We are currently in this peculiar situation because of this incident that happened between two friends. If Israel was an enemy, we wouldn't care so much," he said.

 

The official noted that "now we must avoid escalation, and hope for the verbal incitement to quiet down. Our government is doing everything in its power to fix the situation, if we wanted to sever our ties with Israel, we would have already done it."

 

Prior to the incident, the official recalled, the Turkish government was in contact with the flotilla organizers, who promised they would not sail to Gaza, but dock in Ashdod or al-Arish instead. This information, he said, was passed on to Israel.

 

"We asked Israel not to take any military action, but the IDF acted highhandedly. Maybe there was a lack of communication between your Foreign and Defense ministries," he said.

 

The source completely rejected Israel's claim that the IHH, which organized the flotilla, is a terrorist organization.

 

"Our country suffers from terror, and we don't like terror organizations. If they had any connections to terrorists, we would have known about it. We believe we've done everything in our power to prevent a clash between the two sides."

 

 

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