Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the reconciliation agreement being formulated between Turkey and Israel would obligate the families of those killed during the May 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara to drop their lawsuits against IDF officers in exchange for compensation.
However, the Turkish daily Zaman reported on Sunday that the victims' families "are determined to continue their legal struggle in trying members of the Israeli military responsible for the raid."
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In a rapprochement brokered by US President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan on March 22 for the killings, pledged compensation to the bereaved or hurt and agreed to ease a six-year blockade on Gaza. Erdogan said these gestures met his conditions for normalizing relations with Turkey's erstwhile ally.
With the apology, Israel aimed to end a three-year diplomatic crisis with Turkey, once its closest regional ally, that erupted when Israeli soldiers stormed an international flotilla challenging the Gaza blockade.
Speaking to Zaman, Deputy PM Arinc said that during the negotiations with Israel Ankara is seeking "10 or 20 times the amount of compensation" the families are demanding in the lawsuits.
"If we come up with a bilateral agreement (with Israel), they (the families) will be required to waive their lawsuits, otherwise they will not receive any compensation," he said.
The Mavi Marmara ship (Archive photo: Reuters)
In response to Arinc's remarks, Ismail Yılmaz, head of the Istanbul-based Mavi Marmara Association, told Zaman the Turkish government is "giving the impression that (the lawsuits will be dropped) after talks with Israel. This is not something that the families can accept.
"The families (of the victims) do not find it appropriate to talk compensation prior to the removal of the Gaza blockade. Some say that these are talks only to agree on compensation. But if so, why is there discussion over dropping the lawsuits? If this is a compensation talk, let them discuss the compensation. But if they want to include the trials, they have to discuss the blockade as well," he stated.
Netanyahu's office announced last week that Israel and Turkey have reached a draft agreement on compensation for the victims of the commando raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.
The draft agreement was reached during a meeting in Jerusalem between Turkish officials, headed by the deputy foreign minister, and Israeli government representatives. A third round of talks is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks.
Israel is refusing to pay the families directly, but agreed to setting up a Turkish government humanitarian fund for compensating the victims' families as well as those wounded. During the meeting in Jerusalem, the sides reached an agreement regarding a mechanism for transferring the funds, but the sides are still far apart regarding the amount of compensation. In any case, Israel is expected to pay millions of shekels.
Jerusalem has also demanded that any lawsuits against IDF soldiers and officers would be dropped.
AP contributed to the report
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