"Turkey welcomes full normalization and returning relations between the two countries to what they were before," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told Hebrew daily Ma'ariv. He dismissed pessimistic assessments that relations between Israel and Turkey would not return to their previous status and that Ankara was trying to pull back from the reconciliation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel last month.
Arınç confirmed that he will head a delegation for next week's talks with an Israeli delegation to discuss compensation for the families of the nine Turks killed on takeover by the IDF of Mavi Marmara, which was trying to run the blockade of Gaza in May 2010. "I expect the talks to succeed," he said. "Normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations will improve the chances for peace in the region."
Israel's apology for the Mavi Marmara incident and its acceptance of Turkey's other demands for compensation and easing the Gaza blockade, ended the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relation said Arınç. He added that the statements by Obama and Netanyahu about the Israel-Palestinian peace process were positive and encouraging, and that Turkey continues to support the rights of the Palestinian people, just as it did when it voted in the UN General Assembly to recognize Palestine as a non-voting member state.
Arınç said that the crisis with Israel did not affect the historic close relations between the Turkish and Jewish people, and that the Islamic government in Turkey returned two synagogues to the Jewish community.
Turks say that Erdogan's campaign in support of the Palestinians and his statement that he would visit Hamas-ruled Gaza are intended for domestic support among Turkey's Islamists.
Arınç is in Paris to attend a UNESCO conference on religious coexistence. He also spoke at the "Human rights in the changing process in Turkey" conference, where he faced demonstrations by Turkish human rights and Kurdish activists.
Arınç is a leading candidate to succeed Erdogan if and when he retires or is forced from office over rumors about his deteriorating health.
Turkish diplomatic sources say that Turkey wants a speedy resolution to the talks with Israeli on compensation at the first meeting, in exchange for which the families of the dead will withdraw their legal action against the IDF. Arınç has already advised the families to do so, promising that he would obtain compensation, while legal action would take years. The Turkish government is prepared to promise to send a copy of an agreement to the courts where the claims have been filed as proof that the claimants' demands have been met.