U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton relayed a message during her visit to Istanbul late last week to Turkish President Abdullah Gul from President Barack Obama, on the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations.
A senior Israeli official noted that Clinton told the Turkish president that Obama considered the restoration of ties between the two countries very important and would like to see relations between the two U.S. allies return to their previous levels.
The Turkish president's reaction was not different from the standard Turkish position on the matter to date. "If Israel apologizes for the killing of Turkish citizens on the Mavi Marmara and pays compensation, we will welcome this," Gul said.
Clinton also raised the issue in talks late last week with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu.
A senior Israeli official noted that the involvement of the Americans in efforts to bring to an end the crisis in relations between Turkey and Israel was very intensive. The official said that the postponement of the release of the UN report on the flotilla incident, to 27 July, was the result of heavy pressure brought to bear by the U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The Obama administration is very concerned about the tensions between Israel and Turkey continuing and possibly worsening. The Americans, who realized that talks between Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Ambassador Feridun Sinirioglu have not resulted in sufficient progress for an agreement, pushed the UN Secretary General to give the two sides more time.
The Turkish representative on the UN committee investigating the flotilla incident, Ozdem Sanberk, said in an interview published Monday in Today's Zaman that there was great political will in Turkey and Israel to bring the crisis to an end, noting, however, that the key was an Israeli apology for killing nine Turkish citizens.
"If I spilled coffee on you, I would apologize and offer to pay the cost of the dry cleaning," Sanberk said. "We understand Israel's concerns but we cannot be expected to accept nine fatalities."
Sanberk, a former senior Turkish diplomat who had taken part in rounds of talks between the two sides during the past year, said that Israel was trying to find a formula that would satisfy Turkey but did not burden Jerusalem with full responsibility.
"Israel is trying to say that it did not intend to kill those people and that there was an operational mistake," Sanberk says. "Israel is concerned that an apology would be admission of guilt and would expose its soldiers to law suits abroad."
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