Kerry: U.S. Eager to See Progress |

First Round of Israeli-Turkish Reconciliation Talks End; Sides Agree to Reconvene

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The first round of talks between Israel and Turkey over the normalization of relations between the countries has ended. The talks, which began in Ankara on Monday, focused on the compensation that Israel will pay to the families of the nine Turkish nationals who were killed in a botched commando raid on a Gaza-bound vessel in May 2010.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the atmosphere during the talks was cordial. The official added that the talks did not address the question of how much compensation Israel will pay, rather on the process by which Turkish citizens whose relatives were aboard the Mavi Marmara can demand compensation.

The sides agreed that they would reconvene to continue their discussions, but no date was set for the meeting.

The talks in Ankara, Turkey, come exactly one month after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and apologized to the Turkish people for the killing of nine activists aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla. During that conversation, which was endorsed by United States President Barack Obama, the two prime ministers agreed to restore normal relations between their countries and return their ambassadors to each other's countries.

The first round of talks between Israel and Turkey over the normalization of relations between the countries has ended. The talks, which began in Ankara on Monday, focused on the compensation that Israel will pay to the families of the nine Turkish nationals who were killed in a botched commando raid on a Gaza-bound vessel in May 2010.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the atmosphere during the talks was cordial. The official added that the talks did not address the question of how much compensation Israel will pay, rather on the process by which Turkish citizens whose relatives were aboard the Mavi Marmara can demand compensation.

The sides agreed that they would reconvene to continue their discussions, but no date was set for the meeting.

The Israeli delegation that will travel to Ankara for the talks will include Netanyahu’s special envoy for Turkish affairs, former Director General of the Foreign Ministry Joseph Ciechanover, and National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror. The two officials are expected to meet Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc Turkey’s and Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu. Amidror and Chiechanover will return to Israel Monday evening.

The talks in Ankara will be held against the backdrop of staunch opposition and protest from the Mavi Marmara victims’ families. Despite meeting with representatives of the families several times, Turkish government officials could not convince them to drop the charges they filed against Israeli soldiers and officers in Turkish courts or to accept to reparation agreements.

The families said Sunday that they are upset with the declarations by senior Turkish officials about dropping the charges. They stressed that they will refuse reparations from Israel until the blockade against Gaza is lifted and the free flow of goods and people is permitted.

A senior Israel official said Sunday that this round of talks in Ankara is primarily geared toward hearing Turkey's demands regarding reparations and clarifying Israel’s stance on having the charges filed by the victims’ families dropped. The official believes that another round of negotiations will be necessary to settle the issues.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul Sunday and said that the U.S. is eager to see progress in talks between the two countries.

At a joint press conference with Davutoglu, Kerry appealed to the Mavi Marmara victims’ families and tried to convince them to consent to the reparation agreement. During his appeal, Kerry likened the tragedy of their family members’ deaths to the events that took place in Boston last week.

 “We have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence, when something that happens when you lose people that are near and dear to you," said Kerry. "It affects the community, it affects the country. But going forward, you know, we have to find the best way to bring people together and undo these tensions and undo these stereotypes and try to make peace."

A billboard in Ankara celebrating Netanyahu's recent apology to Erdogan.Credit: AP

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