Sources Say Turkey Could Help Oversee Gaza Crossings

Turkey could be given a central role in supervising the border crossings with the Gaza Strip as part of a deal to repair ties between Israel and Turkey, according to Arab diplomatic sources, the Lebanese Ad-Diyar reported newspaper yesterday.

The relationship between Israel and Turkey has deteriorated dramatically since the Israeli naval commando raid on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31 in which nine Turkish citizens (including one with dual Turkish-Amerian citizenship ) were killed.

According to the Lebanese newspaper report, Turkey would supervise all humanitarian aid entering Gaza, as well as commit to preventing the entry of weapons and money destined for Hamas. In this position, Turkey would play a meaningful role in lifting the blockade of Gaza and play the role of a central figure in the Middle East, which will enable the Islamic country to mediate between Israel and the Arab world in the future, as Turkey has sought in the past, the paper said.

The report has not been confirmed by Turkish or Israeli officials.

On Friday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul told the French daily Le Monde that Israel must make amends to be forgiven for a commando assault on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, including apologizing for the attack and paying compensation.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul

Gul added that if Israel made no move to heal the rift, then Turkey could even decide to break diplomatic ties.

In an interview published on Friday, Gul said the fatal Israeli attack at the end of May was a "crime" - one that might have been carried out by the likes of Al-Qaida rather than a sovereign state. "It seems impossible to me to forgive or forget, unless there are some initiatives that could change the situation," Gul was quoted as saying in Le Monde. Asked what these might be, he said: "Firstly, to seek a pardon and to establish some sort of compensation." He added that he also wanted to see an independent inquiry into the botched raid and a discussion on lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Asked if Turkey might break relations with Israel if nothing was done, Gul said: "Anything is possible."