Israel backs flotilla probe `to patch up Turkey ties`
Israel`s surprise decision to back a UN probe into its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla was taken in a bid to patch up its ties with Turkey, a senior official said on Tuesday.
Jerusalem: Israel`s surprise decision to back a UN probe into its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla was taken in a bid to patch up its ties with Turkey, a senior official said on Tuesday.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday announced the creation of a four-member panel to probe the May 31 raid which left nine Turkish activists dead, and in a surprising U-turn, Israel gave its blessing to the inquiry.
"We have nothing to be afraid of -- the facts are on our side," a senior government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"We also hope that this panel will help us to improve our relations with Turkey ... that it will be a turning point in our relations with Turkey," he said.
Over the past two months, Israel has consistently rejected diplomatic pressure for an independent probe into the raid, with the Jewish state setting up two internal panels to look into various aspects of the chaotic pre-dawn raid in international waters.
But Monday saw the government of Israel making a strategic about-turn and agreeing, for the first time ever, to cooperate with a United Nations inquiry into an Israeli military operation.
The volte face followed weeks of contact between Israel and the UN and came after deliberations by the Forum of Seven top Israeli ministers to ensure that "this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Media reports suggested Israel had come under heavy pressure from Washington to comply with the UN probe.
But the Israeli official denied reports that Israel had caved in to pressure. "Israel took its own decision independently," he said.
The four-man panel will also include Israeli and Turkish participation and is to begin its deliberations on August 10, the UN said on Monday.
Ankara denounced the May 31 raid as a violation of international law, immediately recalled its ambassador and cancelled three planned joint military exercises with the Jewish state.
Turkey says Israel must apologise over the raid, pay compensation for the victims and lift the blockade of Gaza for the recovery of bilateral ties.