Erdogan Seeks to Visit Gaza, Maintains Position on Israel

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has revived a plan to make a visit to Gaza, says he is talking with Gaza officials on the issue.

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Elad Benari, Canada,

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has revived a plan to visit Gaza, the Turkish daily Todays Zaman reported on Friday.

The report indicated that Erdogan once again demanded that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza as a precondition to restoring ties between the two countries.

Erdogan told journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Berlin that he has plans to visit Gaza soon and that authorities are having talks with officials in Gaza to realize this trip.

He welcomed the Qatari emir's recent trip to Gaza, and added that he even once offered Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas's arch-rival, that they visit Gaza together. “He was warm to the suggestion,” Erdogan said. 

Erdogan also reiterated his demand that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza. He said German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked him to take steps to normalize ties with Israel and added that “we discussed Israeli-Palestinian issue, too.”

Turkey’s already strained relations with Israel broke down completely following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. The vessel, owned by the Turkish IHH group, was one of six sent to illegally breach Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza as a “humanitarian flotilla” but was found to be carrying nothing.

When the vessels ignored repeated Israeli navy requests to redirect their boats to Ashdod port, IDF commandos boarded each vessel to force them to port, where the humanitarian aid they were allegedly carrying could be off-loaded and carried to Gaza through the land crossings with Israel.

In the case of the Mavi Marmara, however, the Israeli soldiers – armed only with pistols and paint-ball training guns – were brutally attacked by the “activists” as they boarded, with several critically injured. The commandos who followed them shot and killed their attackers, leaving nine dead.

Turkish leaders demanded an apology for the incident, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.

Turkey has also demanded compensation for the families of victims and the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Israel has many times reached out to Turkey to normalize ties but Turkey says all three demands must be realized to restore relations.

“It is impossible that our relations will be mended unless these demands are realized,” Erdogan said, according to Todays Zaman. “We said this to Merkel.”

Erdogan added that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had dispatched “interesting” diplomats for talks with the two countries, but did not elaborate on their identities.

“We had talks with them. I also told them these three demands. In addition, I told them that all three demands must be realized. I clearly told them that Turkey is not open to options that include offering an apology and compensation but not lifting the Gaza blockade,” he said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)