Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that his country's ties with Israel will only normalize if Israel follows through on its promises both to ease the Gaza blockade and to compensate Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens in the raid on the Mavi Marmara.
Erdogan spoke in an assembly at the city of Eskisehir, stressing that "Only when Israel carries out its commitments, will normalization occur."
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As part of the US-brokered settlement, Israel agreed to transfer funds to a humanitarian organization that would compensate the victims' families.
IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz referred Sunday to Netanyahu's apology, saying that “It was good that the prime minister took action to promote ties with Turkey; it will have a positive effect on our security and strategic interests.”
Nevertheless, Gantz stressed that “The actions of the soldiers in regards to the Marmara were professional and ethical. Any other army would have ended the incident with dozens of deaths. I have complete faith in the commanders."
Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, leveled criticism at the decision to apologize, saying that the apology was a serious mistake, and that "Anyone who has seen the pictures from the Marmara understands without a shadow of a doubt that the actions of the IDF soldiers were self-defense."
Also referring to the apology, President Shimon Peres said "We cannot change the past – this reconciliation is essential. There's a difference between Turkey and Iran. Iran wants to annihilate Israel, a desire which Turkey has never expressed. Both Israel and Turkey are interested in a Middle East of peace."
Referring to the Gaza blockade, the Prime Minister's Office stated that "Israel has already lifted several restrictions on transfer of goods, and the easing of restrictions will remain as long as peace is maintained. The two leaders agreed to continue to work for the improvement of humanitarian conditions in the territories."
Meanwhile an Arab diplomat said Sunday that "Arab states are considering the possibility of demanding that Israel apologize for killings in Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, in the same way that they apologized to Turkey for the Marmara," The Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.
The issue of apologizing to the Palestinians was raised at an Arab League meeting held on Saturday in Qatar. The diplomat added that "the Israeli apology to Turkey was seen as a positive move by the Arab nations."
Roi Kais contributed to this report
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