Turkey set on fully mending ties with Israel, says Erdogan’s aide
Chief adviser to Turkish PM nevertheless cautions that normalization will not happen unless Israel apologizes, offers compensation and lifts the blockade on Gaza.
NICOSIA, Cyprus - Dr. Ibrahim Kalin, the chief adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emphasized Wednesday in a conversation with Haaretz that Turkey intends to normalize its relations with Israel across the board. "From the return of the ambassador, the renewal of joint military maneuvers, military and civilian cooperation, ministerial visits, and to all other areas, relations will return to how they were before the flotilla incident" of 2010, Kalin said.
Kalin emphasized that normalization between Israel and Turkey will not happen unless Turkey's three conditions are met: an apology, compensation and the end of the Gaza blockade. He stressed that Turkey's position on these conditions have not changed.
Kalin traveled with Erdogan to Northern Cyprus to mark the anniversary of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974, in an effort to keep the Greek military junta from taking over the island. He told Haaretz that the recent statement by Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon - that Turkey only wants an Israeli apology and has no intention of normalizing relations - was inaccurate. In light of Ya'alon's remarks, Erdogan asked Kalin to reiterate Turkey's good intentions. Kalin said it seems that "every time we reach some sort of understanding there is someone who makes sure to block the positive progress."
Kalin confirmed that the reconciliation agreement hammered out by Israel and Turkey in the past - which was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but rejected by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman - contained the word "apology" and also included compensation payments to families of those killed aboard the Mavi Marmara ship. Kalin stressed that an apology from Israel must be an integral part of any future agreement between Ankara and Jerusalem.
"We greatly value our relations with Israel and are not thrilled with their deterioration," said Kalin, who is personally involved in the reconciliation negotiations, "but Israel must understand what is happening in Turkey. Friends apologize for mistakes. We are sorry about what happened, we didn't intend to sever relations with Israel, which were excellent, and Turkey sought to advance the peace process between Israel and Syria."
The disagreement over the wording of the agreement between Israel and Turkey is holding up publication of the final UN report on the 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed. Kalin said the report will be issued next week, by which time he hopes there will be a final version of the reconciliation document - including an Israeli apology and an agreement on the scope of Israel's compensation to the families.
Kalin confirmed that Erdogan intends to visit the Gaza Strip, although no date had been set. He rejected claims that the move was intended as a provocation to Israel, stressing that it was part of Ankara's policy toward Gaza. Kalin also said that Erdogan has not ruled out a visit to Israel once a reconciliation is reached.
The adviser declined to say whether Turkey could assist in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit - the IDF soldier who was captured by Palestinian militants near Gaza in 2006 - but confirmed unofficial talks between Israel and Turkey on the issue.
Other senior Turkish officials who spoke to Haaretz confirmed Ankara's desire to restore relations with Israel, as well as U.S. pressure on Turkey to end the crisis. One spoke of reconciliation as "a critical interest for both parties, particularly in light of recent events and the instability in the Middle East."