Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Photo by Reuters
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Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.

Tensions between Israel and Turkey, longtime allies, have risen sharply since Israel's May 31 raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla, which resulted in the death of 9 flotilla participants, 8 of which were Turkish citizens.

"Israel should issue an apology because of what has happened with the more recent events and compensate for the people and Gaza, which is like an open-air prison, must not remain so, and the blockades must be lifted. As long as these happen, this takes place, then we are ready for any sort of responsibility that we are asked to take upon ourselves," Erdogan said.

Referring to the aftermath of the flotilla incident, Erdogan told Charlie Rose that Israel attacked "from the sea and from the air and there were plastic bullets used, guns used. Nine people died, eight Turkish, one a U.S. citizen, the American citizen Furkan Dogan."

"The U.S. administration should take ownership of the situation because there was an American citizen involved," the Turkish PM said, adding the Turkish government would "do the same because families have a right to ask their government what has happened."

"They ask us why, why what has happened? What about my husband or my son? They have a right to ask this question. And the same thing is true for all countries. And we will act within international law taking into consideration the forensic medical reports," Erdogan said.

The Turkish PM also said he thought Israel's government impeded Middle East peace attempts, saying that "at the moment, the problem in Israel is the coalition government. The coalition government is the biggest barrier to peace."

"Israel hasn’t really accepted a two-state solution," the Turkish PM added, saying that while Israel's governments spoke about it, they in fact did nothing to advance it. On the other hand, Erdogan said, Turkey has "worked for the security and we worked for the security of the Israeli people and we have worked to convince Hamas, as well," saying that Ankara had "convinced [Hamas] up to a certain extent."

Referring to the plan drafted by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to precede the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state by establishing national institutions, Erdogan said that he didn't find that plan "very credible."

"Building efforts from the grassroots, ground up is a requirement of democracy, and to do that, you have to have an election. Elections were held, and Hamas won the election," the Turkish PM said.

Erdogan said that the uranium swap deal announced in May by Turkey and Brazil under which Iran would send some of its low-enriched uranium abroad was an attempt to solve Iran's nuclear dispute with the West "through diplomatic means."

On the issue of Turkey's conflict with Kurdish rebels, Erdogan called on western nations to aid Turkey in its fight against the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party], which he called a "terrorist organization."

"Western countries including the United States must act with us just like we fulfilled our responsibilities with regard to what happened after 9/11," Erdogan said. "Every NATO member country must answer because one of the main goals of NATO is also to fight against terrorism, and we are fighting against terrorism."