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Erdogan: Netanyahu sent 'weird' envoys to fix ties
By JPOST.COM STAFF
02/11/2012
Turkish prime minister revives plans to travel to Gaza, hints he could make visit alongside Abbas, 'Today's Zaman' reports.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday described as “very weird,” the diplomats sent by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to help negotiate a normalization of relations between the two countries, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported Friday.

Ties between Turkey and Israel have been strained following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, in which IDF commandos killed nine Turkish citizens who attacked them while trying to break the blockade on Gaza.

Speaking to journalists on his return flight to Ankara from Berlin, Erdogan reiterated his demands for restoring ties with Israel, Today’s Zaman reported.

“It is impossible that our relations will be fixed unless these demands are realized,” he said, according to the report.

While Israel has expressed willingness to meet several of Turkey’s conditions, it has refused Erdogan’s demand that the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip be lifted.

“I clearly told them [Israeli diplomats] that Turkey is not open to options that include offering apology and compensation, but not lifting Gaza blockade,” Today’s Zaman quoted the prime-minister as saying.

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.

Erdogan also revived talk of a long-planned and twice-canceled visit to the Gaza Strip.

The Turkish prime minister told reporters he plans to visit Gaza soon, and that Turkish officials are conducting talks with officials in the Strip in order to make the trip happen, according to Today’s Zaman.

Erdogan announced plans to visit Gaza in July and again in September of 2011, both times canceling the trip that would have surely irked the Israeli government. Israel and much of the West designate the ruling Hamas government in Gaza as a terrorist organization.

He praised a visit to Gaza by Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani last month, the first visit by a head of state to the coastal strip in five years.

Perhaps sensitive to criticism from the West Bank-based, Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority that official contacts with Hamas undermine its legitimacy as the sole Palestinian government, Erdogan made a reference to the possibility of visiting together with PA President Abbas.

Noting that he once suggested to Abbas that they visit Gaza together, Erdogan said: “He was warm to the suggestion,” according to Today’s Zaman.
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