While the Turkish Foreign Ministry last Friday vowed that a rapprochement deal would be signed with Israel in the next meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Monday that Ankara won't drop its demand to end the naval blockade on Gaza.
"What happens in Gaza is unacceptable, the occupation by Israel must end," stated Kalin in a press conference, adding that no final text on a normalization deal has been reached yet, and the talks will continue in the coming weeks.
Kalin added that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is to visit Turkey this week, while Saudi Arabia's King Salman is also to be in Turkey starting from Monday. In return Erdogan will visit Turkey and Saudi Arabia next week.
Kalin's statement on Gaza would seem to indicate that an agreement remains distant, despite the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement last Friday that came a day after a meeting in London. Israeli diplomatic officials told Arutz Sheva that no significant progress was made in the meeting, countering the Turkish Foreign Ministry claim.
Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza, which is legal according to international law and is meant to prevent the influx of weapons to local terrorist organizations, has long been a point of contention in the talks. Another key point has been Turkey's unwillingness to act against the Hamas terror headquarters in Istanbul, which continues to function and plan terror attacks inside Israel.
Senior sources in the Israeli security establishment last Thursday accused Ankara of playing a "double game," and "using" Israel so as to pressure Russia into being less belligerent as the two countries are in the midst of a tense standoff.
Agreement on paying Marmara attackers?
In his statements on Monday, Erdogan's spokesperson Kalin also indicated that an agreement had been reached over Israel paying compensation to the families of the ten Islamists on board the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla who attacked IDF soldiers and were killed in the process.
That incident, which led to the cutting of diplomatic ties, involved a Turkish flotilla trying to breach the naval blockade. The main ship, later found not to be carrying humanitarian goods despite its claims, refused orders to turn around and forced IDF soldiers to board it where they were attacked and wounded by Islamists armed with knives and metal bars. The soldiers were forced to open fire to defend themselves, killing ten.
Under pressure from US President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu apologized for the incident to Turkey, and last December Israel reportedly agreed to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the Islamists.
A Turkish official familiar with the details of the ongoing rapprochement talks told the Turkish Daily Sabah that a main point of contention is Turkey's demand to be allowed to send a power generator ship to Gaza to supply electricity.
"Turkey and Israel do not agree 100%. There are still certain hurdles we must overcome," said the official. He added that Israel did not reject the power generator ship request, but asked for time to consider.
According to the Turkish official, the two sides agreed to reach an agreement in the next round of talks, which will be the final round in which Israel is to respond to Turkey's demands.
"It is extremely unlikely for the final meeting to not produce any results. Neither side wants this to continue for much longer. If Israel agrees to Turkey sending a power ship to the Eastern Mediterranean, respective ambassadors will start serving in Ankara and Tel Aviv in no time," claimed the official.
In response, a senior Israeli official quoted by Haaretz denied the official's claims, saying, "the issue of sending power-generating ships never came up during the last rounds of negotiations."