Turkish President Abdullah Gul
Turkish President Abdullah Gul Israel news photo: Flash 90

In what some may see as an improvement in relations between Israel and Turkey, Turkish President Abdullah Gul invited a senior Israeli diplomat to the Victory Day reception held on August 30, reported the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

It was the first such invitation since the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.

The Chargé d’affairs of the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, Josef Levy Safari, attended the Victory Day reception, marking his first appearance in such a state reception, the newspaper reported.

Sources said the invitation was made as Israel officially apologized to Turkey over the killings of nine Turkish citizens on board of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara vessel.

Although the normalization process between the two countries has not been completed and no ambassadors have been exchanged, the Israeli issuance of an apology has been seen as sufficient for inviting the chargé d’affairs to the reception, according to the Hurriyet.

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.

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.

Sources told the Hurriyet that Turkey’s condition requiring Israel’s recognition that the payment to the victims of the Mavi Marmara would be made due to Israel’s wrongful act is still valid.

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