Israel, Turkey meet to mend 6-month rift

Israeli and Turkish negotiators met this week to discuss improving relations six months after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla severely damaged their formerly close ties, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.

Jerusalem: Israeli and Turkish negotiators
met this week to discuss improving relations six months after
a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla severely
damaged their formerly close ties, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.

Ron Dermer, an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, told Israel Radio that Jerusalem is searching for a
compromise that "both sides can live with" - though official
positions remain far apart.

Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv after
Israel killed nine Turkish activists on board a ship that
aimed to break Israel`s blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Once allies, Israel-Turkish relations hit bottom as
Turkish leaders denounced Israel repeatedly over the raid.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has
demanded an apology and compensation for the families of the
dead. Israel insists its naval commandoes were attacked and
acted in self-defence.

Last Friday, Turkey sent aircraft and firefighters to
help extinguish a huge forest fire in Israel. In the wake of
the gesture, Israel and Turkey began meeting in Switzerland in
effort to bridge their gaps, according to Israeli officials.

Dermer said Israel wants Turkey to return its
ambassador and remove the raid from the international agenda.

Netanyahu also wants to legally protect the soldiers and
commanders who participated in the raid, he said. Israeli
leaders and military commanders have faced arrest in Europe
under "universal jurisdiction" laws after suits were filed by
pro-Palestinian activists over Israeli military operations.

One of Turkey`s main demands, that Israel apologise
for the flotilla raid, brought stiff objections from Israel`s
foreign minister.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the
matter, quoted Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as saying
"an apology to Turkey is like surrendering to terror. If
anyone needs to apologise, it`s Turkey. It should pay
compensation for the support of terrorists."

PTI

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