US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Istanbul on Saturday
for talks with Turkish leaders that will focus on the situation in Syria, but
are also expected to touch on Israeli-Turkish relations.
The US has long
been pressing its two regional allies – Israel and Turkey – to find a formula
for rapprochement at a time of upheaval in the region. Clinton raised the issue
in Jerusalem during her visit here three weeks ago.
Clinton will visit
Turkey on the tail end of her current trip to Africa.
According to the
State Department, Clinton will go to Istanbul “for bilateral consultations with
the Turkish government on Syria, as well as to cover other timely
Diplomatic officials would not say whether Clinton was bringing
to Istanbul any concrete proposal on how to end the crisis with Israel and
repair ties that went into a tailspin in May 2010 following the Mavi Marmara
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met two weeks ago with a
delegation of senior Turkish journalists brought to the country by the Foreign
He said at the time the two countries needed to find a formula
that “respects both countries” and would enable an improvement of the
He did not, however, provide a blueprint regarding how this
could be done.
Turkey, which expelled Israel’s ambassador last year, is
demanding an Israeli apology, reparation payments to the families of the nine
people killed in the incident, and the lifting of the blockade of
Israel has indicated it would agree to a text along the lines of an
apology “if” operational mistakes were made and unintentional damage caused. It
also has agreed to reparation payments.
It refuses, however, to lift the
blockade as a condition to improved relations, saying Turkey cannot be allowed
to dictate Israeli policy.
Israel also wants the Turkish government to
agree that any agreement would put an end to the issue, and that there would be
no further legal action in Turkey – something Ankara refuses to do.