Israel, Turkey begin talks over compensation for flotilla victims' families
Recep Erdogan says normalization of Israeli-Turkish relations is contingent on payment of compensation for the botched flotilla raid and the easing of restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza.
Israel and Turkey began talks Monday the compensation Israel will pay the families of victims of the 2010 flotilla raid, for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized last week, The French news agency AFP reported.
"Officials delegated by the two sides will work on the compensation issue. We gave the kickstart for it today," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told AFP the Turkish government's weekly cabinet meeting. "This is a big success of Turkish foreign policy," he said.
Arinc said Turkey's foreign minister "held talks with the other party and expressed the necessity to swiftly solve the issue," AFP reported.
On Sunday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that normalization of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of the flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.
"We have said: An apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these," he said in a public address on Sunday. "Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry."
Erdogan's comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American.
Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.
Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.
Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.
Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.
During Friday's conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as "calm prevailed."