Turkey FM Confirms Resumption of Reconciliation Talks With Israel

Follow Haaretz report last Friday, Turkish FM Ahmet Davutoglu tells CNN that Israel must apologize and compensate families of activists killed in Gaza flotilla raid, and lift Gaza blockade; Israeli envoy reportedly responds positively to first two requests, and does not rule ending Gaza siege.

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In an interview with CNN Turk, Davutoglu said that Turkey will not make any concessions on its terms for ending the bilateral crisis: an Israeli apology for the killing of nine Turks during the 2010 raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, payment of compensation to the families of the dead and wounded, and a removal of the Gaza blockade.

"It was an informal meeting," said Davutoglu of the Turkish-Israeli encounter in Geneva last week. "We are prepared to talk if the Israelis say they are prepared to fulfill our conditions."

Haaretz reported over the weekend that the special envoy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Ciechanover, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu met last week in Geneva to try to come up with a formula that would end the rift between the two countries, which began after Operation Cast Lead and became a total rupture after the May 2010 Israel Defense Forces raid on the Mavi Marmara, which was attempting to breach the Gaza blockade.

The Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, which is close to Islamic elements in that country, reported yesterday that during the Geneva conversation Ciechanover said Israel is prepared to apologize to Turkey for killing nine Turkish citizens on the ship and would pay compensation to the victims' families.

Ciechanover reportedly told Sinirlioglu that Israel expects, in return for these steps, that Turkey will normalize relations between the countries, return its ambassador to Tel Aviv and allow the Israeli ambassador to return to Ankara. According to the Turkish report, Ciechanover told Sinirlioglu of Israel's concern that even if it did what Turkey was demanding, it would not receive an appropriate quid pro quo and relations would not return to what they had been before.

Sinirlioglu reportedly responded that if Israel met Turkish demands, the government in Ankara would regard it as a "new leaf" in bilateral relations, and would respond as Israel requests. With that, Sinirlioglu stressed that in addition to an apology and the payment of compensation, Turkey is demanding that Israel move toward removing the Gaza blockade.

According to the report, Ciechanover did not categorically reject the proposal regarding the blockade. He noted it was a process that would take time, and that in any case Israel would need to receive guarantees from Turkey that removing the blockade would not undermine Israel's security. Ciechanover and

Sinirlioglu are expected to remain in contact and have agreed to meet again after the Israeli election.

In addition to last week's meeting in Geneva, during the Gaza cease-fire talkslast week in Cairo there was a meeting between Mossad head Tamir Pardo and his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan, which was also attended by Egyptian intelligence chief Raafat Shehata.

According to the Yeni Safak report, during this meeting Fidan told Pardo that Turkey would guarantee that Hamas would stop the rocket fire, but in return Israel had to commit to not launching a ground operation in Gaza. Fidan told Pardo that Hamas is fait accompli and that Israel has to accept this. He stressed that if Hamas collapsed, it would be replaced by even more extremist groups.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan chairs the annual meeting of the High Military Council in Ankara August 1, 2010.Credit: Reuters
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.Credit: AP

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