Turkish Officials: We're Committed to Preserving Friendly Israel Ties

Turkish diplomat visiting U.S. tells Turkish paper Gaza flotilla raid bears no ill effect on Turkey's attitude toward Israel or Jews, only Israel's gov't.

Senior Turkish officials currently visiting the United States confirmed their commitment to preserving warm relations with Israel, the Turkish newspaper Zaman reported Thursday.

Reuters

Ties between Turkey and Israel, once close allies, have been strained ever since Turkey mounted harsh criticism against Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip in the winter of 2008/2009. Relations deteriorated further following a Turkish-sponsored aid flotilla in May, which aimed to bring supplies to Gaza in violation of an Israeli naval blockade. An Israeli navy raid aboard one of the flotilla ships ended in a violent clash that left nine Turkish activists dead.

Earlier this month, the U.S. denied reports it had given Turkey an ultimatum, threatening to scrap a huge arms deal unless the Muslim state toned down its hostile stance against Israel.

A delegation of senior Turkish officials, headed by Turkey's Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu, met with U.S. State Department officials as well as Defense officials and commerce representatives. Turkish media quoted one of the delegation members as saying that the May flotilla incident was an "event between two friends."

The same diplomat said that this was the first time that Israel experienced such a deadly incident with an ally, which is why the shock was so intense. He clarified that the flotilla raid had no bearing on Turkey's diplomatic relations with Israel or the Jewish people, but rather it only affected Turkey's attitude toward Israel's government.

He added that the latest tensions between the two allies were preventing Turkey from resuming its role as peace mediator between Israel and Syria.