'Netanyahu not in favor of apologizing to Turkey'

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December 12, 2010 04:06

Gov’t sources deny Turkish report of PM dispute with Barak, Lieberman over apology to Ankara; Turkish, Israeli officials meet to end crisis.

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

lieberman imposing 311. (photo credit: AP)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not said he is in favor of apologizing to the Turks over the Mavi Marmara incident, only that he hopes it is possible to solve the crisis in the relationship with Ankara, a government source said Saturday night.

The source was responding to a report on Saturday on the English website of the Turkish Zaman newspaper, Today’s Zaman, citing Turkish cabinet sources as saying that Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the IDF had joined Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in their opposition to apologizing for the incident.

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While Lieberman also is opposed to paying compensation, the report said that “Israeli military officials” were not opposed to paying compensation to the families of the nine Turks killed as they were trying to break Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza.

Last week it was reported that Israel had offered to pay the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara $100,000 each, but this was denied on Thursday by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

In the wake of the two Turkish planes sent to Israel last week to help fight the Carmel fire, talks between Israeli and Turkish officials to find a formula that would end the current crisis took place last Sunday and Monday in Geneva.

The Turks continue to demand an apology and the payment of compensation to the victims of the incident, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also adding that Israel needs to lift the blockade of Gaza in order for ties to return to normal.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek was quoted in Today’s Zaman as saying that although he hopes “Israel continues to display a constructive approach... it seems difficult for Israel to accept those conditions because of domestic politics.”

In what may have been an attempt to lower expectations of the talks, he added, “It is unlikely that the relations will develop positively in the short term.”

The report said that Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party hopes to normalize ties with Israel by the June 2011 Turkish general elections, on condition that Israel apologizes and pays compensation.

Turkish representative to the UN flotilla inquiry panel Ozdem Sanberk said that the central point of contention between diplomats of the two countries was the word “apology.”

“As far as it concerns the Turkish side, it has never negotiated a word other than the word ‘apology,’” Sanberk said. Israel reportedly wanted to use a word such as “regret” instead of “apology.”

According to the Zaman report, no new meetings between Israel and Turkey are currently scheduled, but a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman backed away from saying the talks were stalled. “Contacts [with Israeli officials] will continue,” he said.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, meanwhile, added his voice to those opposed to issuing an apology to Turkey.

“Turkey is an important country, but we need to preserve our national honor, as well as the honor of the IDF soldiers,” he said. “Improving relations is important for both Israel and Turkey.”

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.


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