Turkey: Israel is not meeting all our expectations
Netanyahu already apologized for Marmara incident, but Turkey is in no rush to forgive or forget. ‘Israel apologized too late,’ Turkish President Abdullah Gul tells Yedioth Ahronoth. Senior Turkish advisor: As long as Erdogan is in power, things will not change
More than six months have passed since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for the Marmara incident, and relations between the two countries have yet to be fully restored. “Israel apologized too late,” said Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in a conversation with Yedioth Ahronoth.
The Turkish president explained, “In order to end this conflict and difference of opinion between us, we had certain expectations of Israel, Israel responded to part of our expectations, when it apologized (for the raid on the Marmara ship, during which nine Turkish civilians were killed by IDF fire). But this step was taken at a late stage, Israel apologized too late. Some of our expectations were not yet met.”
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Turkey presented Israel with three demands in order to end the impasse and to restore diplomatic relations between the countries. The first demand, an apology for the deaths of Turkish civilians on the Marmara, was met last March.
The second demand, payment of restitution to the families of the nine killed – is still under disagreement. According to one estimation, Israel is supposed to pay the families between $5 and $6 million. In return, legal proceedings taking place in Istanbul courts against IDF officers are to be dropped, and an amendment is to be passed prohibiting Turkish citizens from suing Israeli soldiers and officers in the future.
A senior diplomatic advisor in Ankara told Yedioth that even though Israel agreed to pay, an agreement still has not been reached regarding how the payment will be implemented: whether it will be "assistance to families" (as Israel prefers), or "restitution for the deaths of nine Turkish civilians" (as Turkey demands).
Turkish PM Erdogan (L) and President Gul (Photo: Reuters)
“The amount of the money is not the problem,” said Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, three months ago. “Israel must accept the fact that it is paying this money as a result of the faulty action it took.”
The government of Erdogan also insists on another condition for the normalization of relations: the removal of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Due to the differences of opinion between the two countries, the negotiations are at a dead-end.
On Friday, the Turkish president refused to describe what might bring about a breaking of the stalemate between the two countries. “Even with the differences of opinion, what is important is that meetings are happening, and the sides continue working,” Gul said. “The meetings are happening discretely, far from the eye. You could say that certain progress has been made, and I hope these talks will lead to results.”
But the Turkish diplomatic advisor estimated that a breakthrough was not to be expected in the near future. “As long as Erdogan is the prime minister of Turkey, there will not be a change for the positive in relations with Israel. Erdogan has lots of complaints against you already from the period of Olmert. When will a reversal in relations come? Maybe only after the presidential elections in 2014, and the elections for parliament in 2015, which will decide who will serve as the next prime minister of Turkey.”
Gul spoke with Yedioth Ahronoth after he gave the opening speech at the Istanbul Forum, an annual convention held by the Turkish center for strategic communications. The forum hosts politicians, researchers and journalists, bringing them together for a series of discussions regarding international issues which touch on Turkey and the Middle East.
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