Turkish Official: Normalization with Israel Soon
Turkish-Israeli talks to end a diplomatic crisis between the two countries are on track and can be concluded at any time, a Turkish official told the Today’s Zaman newspaper over the weekend.
“This should not surprise anyone,” the official, who spoke this week on condition of anonymity, said of a possible breakthrough in the normalization process.
“I do not see any political obstacle standing in the way of normalization,” he added.
Under pressure from U.S. President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized in March to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the deaths of nine Turks in the 2010 flotilla.
Netanyahu, in addition to the apology, agreed to compensate the families of the nine Turks, while Erdogan promised to cancel the legal proceedings his country launched against IDF officials.
The nine Turks died when Israeli commandos staged a raid on a six-ship flotilla seeking to violate Israel's naval blockade of Gaza on May 31, 2010.
They died on the Mavi Marmara, which refused Israeli orders to dock at the Ashdod Port. When the ship refused, the commandos boarded it, encountering violence from the members of the IHH organization who were on board and who attacked them with clubs and knives. The soldiers had no choice but to open fire.
When Israel refused to Turkey’s demands to apologize for raiding the Marmara, Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and expelled the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.
Israeli and Turkish officials began talking in April regarding compensation for the Marmara incident, but a deal is yet to be finalized. While it was reported that progress was made in the talks, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc recently said that his country will not be satisfied with Israel simply paying compensation to the Marmara victims. The Jewish state, he said, must acknowledge that the money it is paying to the victims is a result of its committing a wrongful act.
Meanwhile, in what some said was an improvement in relations between the two countries, Turkish President Abdullah Gul invited a senior Israeli diplomat to the Victory Day reception held on August 30.
It was the first such invitation since the Mavi Marmara incident.