Turkey has delayed the beginning of talks with Israel over compensation for the 2010 Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, which resulted in the death of nine-Turkish anti-Israel activists who were seeking to unlawfully infiltrate the borders of the Jewish state.
"The compensation meeting with Israel has been delayed to April 21 or 22," Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting late Monday.
Arinc, who was due to head the Turkish side during the talks, said the meetings had to be rescheduled because he would be accompanying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a trip to Kazakhstan this week.
The news of the delay came a day after the so-called “victims” of the raid said they would not withdraw their lawsuit against Israeli commanders despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent apology over the incident.
"We will not discuss compensation or give up on the trials until the blockade over Gaza is removed," said Musa Cogas, one of the activists who was on board the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's blockade of Gaza.
Since Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it has become a hotbed for terror and launching pad for rockets and missiles aimed at bringing about the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israeli and Turkish officials were originally scheduled to meet on April 12 for negotiations over compensation for the raid.
The US-brokered apology ended a three-year diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey.
Turkey had demanded a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victim to fully normalize ties.
Erdogan accepted the apology "in the name of the Turkish people" but said the nature of the country's future relationship with Israel would depend on the Jewish state.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Istanbul on Sunday, called on Turkey and Israel to fully normalize relations.
Prosecutors at the high-profile Istanbul trial that opened in November are seeking life sentences for four top Israeli military chiefs over the deadly maritime incident.
Payment of compensation would not lead to the withdrawal of a "public lawsuit" seeking criminal action, a plaintiff lawyer told AFP.
"But there are some 40 separate compensation cases which might be settled in response to such payment," lawyer Ugur Yildirim added, referring to dozens of compensation lawsuits filed in October by families of the nine so-called “victims” as well as several others seeking a symbolic compensation of 1 Turkish lira ($0.56, 0.43 euros) from Israel.
All in all, the total compensation sought by the plaintiffs at courts across Turkey reaches 10 million Turkish lira. "More lawsuits might be on the way," according to Yildirim.
Israeli officials have in the past slammed Turkey for carrying out the Istanbul trial, which is nothing more than a "propaganda showcase".
Turkish officials previously said the compensation talks might lead to the withdrawal of the lawsuit but activists insist they will pursue their case until "justice is served".