Turkey Officials Discuss Gaza Flotilla, Iran Nukes on U.S. Visit

Visit comes after the U.S. denied a report stating it had warned Turkey strained ties with Israel, support of Iran could hinder a significant arms deal between Washington and Ankara.

A top Turkish official made an official visit to the United States this week, the Turkish daily Zaman reported on Wednesday, in what was described as an attempt to iron out "misunderstandings" concerning Turkey's policy toward Iran's nuclear program, as well as its recent tensions with Israel.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan AP June 6, 2010

Relations between Israel and Turkey have been on shaky ground for a while, beginning with Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009 and worsening this year following the flotilla incident at the end of May, in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish citizens aboard a ship attempting to break the Gaza blockade

Earlier this month, the United States denied reports it had given Turkey an ultimatum, threatening to scrap a huge arms deal unless the Muslim state toned down its hostile stance against Israel.

The denial followed a Financial Times report, indicating that U.S. President Barack Obama had warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that strained ties with Israel and increasing support of Iran could hinder Washington's plan to ship arms, including sophisticated drones, to Turkey.

Diplomatic sources told Zaman on Wednesday that Turkey's Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu arrived in Washington to hold close consultations with senior U.S. officials, in which he placed the blame over continued tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem on Israel, saying Israel should have both apologized and compensated the victims' families.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry official also reportedly told American officials that tensions would have also been resolved had Israel agreed to the Turkish demand to establish an international investigation of the May 31 raid.

"Things would have been settled quicker if Israel had apologized and paid compensation but Israel did not prefer that method," diplomats told Zaman.

"The sooner Israel apologized and paid compensation, the quicker the problem would be solved," the sources said.

Sources also indicated that the United Nations report regarding the Gaza flotilla raid would be presented prior to September 15.

Regarding Turkey's position on Iran's controversial nuclear program, the senior diplomat asserted that Turkey was not interested in taking sides but in assisting a resolution of the matter, saying Turkey, as Iran's neighbor could not remain indifferent to the issue.

"Turkey, as Iran's neighbor, did not want any instability in the region," the sources told Zaman.

The Turkish delegation reiterated Ankara's commitment to Diplomats to the recently imposed UN sanctions on Iran, saying, however, that the country was not committed to any bilateral sanctions of those imposed by the European Union.

The sources indicating that they were against any country having a nuclear weapons program, in what may have been a gesture toward Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal, the existence of which it has neither affirmed or denied.

On Tuesday, a United Nations official said Israel wasn't cooperating with the UN Human Rights Council's probe of May's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

Juan Carlos Monge, who is assigned to accompany the fact-finding mission, said it was speaking with witnesses and government officials in Turkey and Jordan, adding that Israel hasn't granted the team an invitation.

Israel's UN mission said Tuesday it wasn't commenting on the investigation.

A report will be presented to the council September 27.