Turkey and Israel are as close as they have been yet to ending the long-running saga over the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quoted as saying Sunday.
Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News quoted Davutoglu, who has been an acerbic and vocal critic of Israel, as saying in a televised interview that “there has recently been a momentum and new approach in compensation talks. We could say that most of the differences have been removed recently in these discussions.”
Israeli diplomatic officials, continuing a policy that has been in place for the last few weeks, refused to comment on the matter. Last week officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry were instructed not to talk about the issue.
A Turkish delegation arrived a week ago to discuss the matter, including the amount of compensation to be paid to the nine Turks killed after they attacked IDF commandos who boarded the ship in May 2010 to keep it from breaking the naval blockade of Gaza.
According to the Hurriyet report, Davutoglu did not give any numbers regarding the compensation payment, beyond saying that the gaps between the two sides had narrowed.
As a condition for normalizing ties that were significantly downgraded following the incident, Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology, compensation payment, and lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
Last March, at the urging of US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for operational errors that could have led to the loss of life. Israel made clear, however, that it would not lift the blockade.
According to Sunday’s Hurriyet report, Davutoglu cited an easing of Israel’s embargo on Gaza. He did not give a time frame for the exchange of ambassadors, but said Turkey’s representation in Israel would be “significant” in order to “monitor and to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza.”
Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv immediately after the incident in May, and expelled Israel’s ambassador a year later.
The current moves come just about a month before Erdogan’s AKP Party faces an important electoral test in municipal elections, and at a time when the country is reeling from corruption scandals and heavy-handed government tactics, such as new laws clamping down on the Internet.