Israel and Turkey are days away from signing a compensation agreement for the families of those killed on the Gaza flotilla, according to Turkish media reports on Tuesday.
The Hurriyet daily reported on Tuesday that the Turkish government is expected to give its final approval next week to a draft agreement that would end the diplomatic rift which ensued in the wake of the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the deal is likely to be signed following next week’s local elections. After the two sides agree on compensation, diplomatic ties will be fully restored, with each side sending ambassadors to take up residence in their respective countries.
Last month, Hurriyet reported that the two sides were nearing a deal for compensation for the victims of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which nine Turkish activists attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip were killed by IDF commandos.
“An agreement is almost ready and is waiting for the finalization of some minor issues before being submitted to the two countries’ leadership,” a diplomatic source was quoted as saying by Hurriyet.
In March 2013, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to normalize relations after a three-year deadlock.
At the time, Netanyahu proposed creating a "humanitarian fund" to compensate victims and their relatives.
“The amount of compensation for those who were killed and wounded in the Mavi Marmara operation, plus the damages inflicted on the vessel, will be around a few million dollars,” unnamed sources were quoted as saying in Hurriyet.
Negotiations which began in March 2013 stagnated, however, because Turkey had insisted that Israel accept liability for the attack and the killing of Turkish citizens. Israel agreed to accept responsibility on the condition that future criminal cases would not be opened against the Israeli commanders and soldiers involved in the attack, according to the Hurriyet.
Diplomats from the two countries met at least four times in the last year working up to an agreement that would conclude the process of normalization of relations that began with Israel's apology last year.
Turkey has since agreed to drop all charges against a group of former Israeli military commanders, including former chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.
In the March 2013 conversation facilitated by US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu voiced regret for the loss of life in the Mavi Marmara incident, apologizing for any mistakes that led to the death of nine Turkish activists.
In July 2013, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that the reason for the deadlock in compensation talks was not the money, but rather Israel’s unwillingness to admit that the compensation payment was the result of a wrongful act.
The UN Commission tasked with probing the event wrote in September 2011 that Israel should offer payment to those injured and the families of the nine people killed, “to be administered by the two governments through a joint trust fund of a sufficient amount to be decided by them.”
The commission found that the flotilla “acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade. The majority of the flotilla participants had no violent intentions, but there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH. The actions of the flotilla needlessly carried the potential for escalation.”
Turning its criticism toward Israel, the report found that the loss of lives and injuries resulting from the IDF’s use of force was “unacceptable.”
“Nine passengers were killed and many others seriously wounded by Israeli forces. No satisfactory explanation has been provided to the panel by Israel for any of the nine deaths,” the report read. “Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.