US Secy of State John Kerry is set to visit Turkey on Sunday in the wake of an apology to Ankara by Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident.
Kerry is expected to arrive in Istanbul “for a short visit,” a Turkish foreign ministry diplomat told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
The American secretary of state last visited Turkey on March 1 to pour oil on troubled waters following anti-Israel remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who attempted to draw a parallel between Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, calling it a “crime against humanity.” Erdogan later clarified his remarks were “misunderstood.”
The upcoming visit follows a March 23 apology to Turkey by Israel that is one of the three conditions demanded by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before Ankara will agree to restore full diplomatic ties.
The other two conditions include financial compensation to the families of the attackers killed aboard the illegal flotilla ship, and that Israel remove its blockade of Gaza.
Negotiations between Israeli and Turkish teams over the amount of compensation to be paid to each of the families are to begin April 12.
Israel also expects Turkey to drop its Istanbul lawsuit against the four high-level ex-IDF chiefs in command positions at the time of the incident.
Erdogan is set to reciprocate with a visit to Washington D.C. for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 16, local media report.
Turkey ejected Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own from Tel Aviv in 2010 following the May 31 clash between terror activists aboard the Turkish owned vessel that was among six in a “humanitarian aid” flotilla intent on breaking Israel’s blockade of Gaza. After the ship’s captain ignored Israel’s order to head instead to Ashdod for inspection, IDF soldiers boarded the ship to take control – but were ambushed by armed men.
In the ensuing clash, nine of the attackers were killed. Numerous others were wounded, several seriously, including a number of IDF soldiers, but Turkey has blamed Israel for the deaths despite the invasion of its sovereign maritime borders.
All humanitarian aid aboard the flotilla vessels was repackaged for overland transport and trucked to the border crossing with Gaza following the incident, but Gaza’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization refused for months to accept delivery.
Numerous international organizations had attempted to intervene prior to the confrontation, urging Turkey and other nations involved in the illegal flotilla to pressure the organizers to send whatever aid they wished through proper legal channels. That effort failed.