Marmara victims: Don't drop legal proceedings
Lawyer acting on behalf of families of nine Turks killed in IDF raid on Gaza-bound flotilla says 'it's out of the question' for government to cancel trial in absentia of four Israeli ex-military chiefs by Istanbul court. Erdogan: Compensation talks to start April 12
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc had initially said the negotiations for compensation of the victims' families would start next week, in remarks carried by the private NTV broadcaster.
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"After the apology, we have the compensation (issue) ahead of us. A delegation (from Israel) will travel to Turkey on April 12 for talks on this," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdodan said in an interview with the CNN-Turk television.
Ties between Israel and its closest Muslim ally Turkey plummeted in May 2010 when Israeli commandos staged a botched pre-dawn raid on a six-ship flotilla to the Gaza Strip, killing nine Turkish nationals.
Ankara poster thanks Erdogan for 'defeating' Israel (Photo: EPA)
The assault triggered an international outcry and severely damaged relations between regional allies Turkey and Israel, with Ankara demanding a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victims.
Arinc declined to say how much compensation would be paid out by Israel, adding the exact amount would be clarified after talks with the lawyers of victims' families.
'There is no return from the case'
Until last week, Israel had refused to apologize for the raid and had instead expressed regret for the deaths.
But last Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey, ending a near three-year diplomatic rift -- a breakthrough brokered by US President Barack Obama during his visit to Israel.
Erdogan accepted the apology "in the name of the Turkish people" but said the country's future relationship with Israel would depend on the Jewish state.
Israel now expects Turkey to drop legal proceedings over the case – in particular the high-profile trial in absentia of four Israeli ex-military chiefs by an Istanbul court that opened in November.
Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for the four over the night-time assault in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.
"It's out of the question for the government to cancel the trial at the Istanbul court," Ramazan Ariturk – one of the lawyers acting on behalf of the nine Turkish victims -- told AFP.
"There is no return from the case which has to be concluded under the existing Turkish laws," he said.
The defendants are former military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy chief Eliezer Marom, former military intelligence head Amos Yadlin and former air force intelligence chief Avishai Levy.
They did not appear in the dock, after Israel ruled that those who took part in the raid did nothing wrong.
A diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "We'll examine all cases one by one."