Turkish FM: Israel Has Met Only One of Our Conditions for Normalizing Relations

While Israel has apologized for the deaths of Turkish nationals during Gaza flotilla incident, it has yet to pay out compensation or lift the blockade on Gaza, as Erdogan has demanded.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Credit: Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that talks with Israel were ongoing though Jerusalem had met only one of the three conditions Turkey had set for normalizing relations between the countries. Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the UN Security Council meeting in New York, Cavusoglu said talks were now going on at the professional level to examine how Israel can meet Turkey's two yet-unfulfilled conditions.

After Israel forces commandeered a Turkish flotilla to Gaza, and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan laid out three conditions for reconciling ties with Israel: An official Israeli apology for the death of Turks in the raid, paying compensation to their families, and the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan on poster in Turkey after flottila incidentCredit: AFP

In March 2013, Israel met the first conditions, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Erdogan and voiced an apology for the death of Turkish nationals in the incident. The second condition has yet to be met, but as part of the agreement currently coming together, Israel has agreed to pay $20 million to a humanitarian fund that will be established and whose funds will be allocated according to the bereaved Turkish families' desires.

The third condition – the ending of the blockade on the Gaza Strip – is the most problematic for Israel. A senior official in Jerusalem stated that this was the main point of disagreement between the two sides. According to him, Israel had no intention of ending the maritime blockade on Gaza, and is interested in looking into whether Erdogan would be willing to accept alternative steps to ease the blockade on Gaza, which could be credited to Turkish efforts.

Haaretz reported Thursday that progress was being made in talks and that Joseph Ciechanover, Benjamin Netanyahu’s envoy in the contacts with Turkey, and National Security Adviser, Yossi Cohen, who will soon become head of the Mossad, concluded most of the principles of the agreement with Turkish under-foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu during a meeting in Zurich on Wednesday, a senior official in Jerusalem told Haaretz.

The senior official stressed that the two countries have not yet reached agreement on the Turkish demand that Israel lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip entirely. 

“Erdogan is on record as predicating the normalization of relations with Israel on a total lifting of the blockade on Gaza,” the official said. “There are ideas but no solution to the issue as yet. It’s not simple.”