Ankara will never abandon Palestinians, Turkish PM says

One Israeli official sought Tuesday to tamp down some of the initial optimism over reaching a deal.

December 22, 2015 19:49
2 minute read.
Turkey's ruling AK Party

Senior Hamas leader Khaled Mashal shakes hands with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a meeting of Turkey's ruling AK Party (AKP) December 27. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that efforts to normalize relations with Israel are meant to help the Palestinians.

“No one is more sensitive on Gaza, Palestine, than us.

Our sole goal is to bring solutions to the problems of our Palestinian brothers,” he said according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.

“This is the main objective behind our talks for the normalization of our relationship with Israel,” he said, deflecting criticism by clarifying that its lessening of tensions with Israel does not mean it is abandoning the Palestinian cause.

The statement also serves to let Turkey’s Islamist and pro-Palestinian backers know that any pragmatic moves with Israel do not alter its fundamental values.

“We will not take any steps that would sadden Palestine and Gaza, but we won’t hesitate to take every step that would be to their benefits, no matter what they say,” Davutoglu told members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.

“Turkey has become the first state to ever enjoy the honor of making Israel formally apologize over such an incident. We have not given concessions to anybody while defending our rights.”

One Israeli official sought Tuesday to tamp down some of the initial optimism that emerged following the Prime Minister Office’s statement last week. The announcement indicated that a number of issues were agreed upon during secret talks in Switzerland between Israeli and Turkish officials, paving the way for a rapprochement.

“We have consistently been open to better relations,” the official said. “We were open to this in 2015, 2014, 2013, and it didn’t happen because the Turks were not willing.

The deal isn’t done. There is a potential framework now for an improvement of relations, but unfortunately we are not there yet.”

The shutting down of Hamas’s operations in Turkey is emerging as one of the sticking points preventing the signing of an agreement between the two countries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Likud faction on Monday that a rapprochement with Turkey is not yet a done deal, echoing comments made a day earlier by a spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AK Party.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari tried on Monday to dissuade Turkey from improving relations with Israel.

“Muslim governments should adopt policies which meet their and the Islamic Ummah’s [nation’s] interests as well as the rights of the Palestinian nation,” he said, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.

“The Turkish government shouldn’t pursue a different path with the Quds [Jerusalem] Occupying regime under such conditions,” Ansari added.

Davutoglu said that talks between Turkey and Israel were continuing and that Ankara was insisting on its demands for compensation and for “lifting restrictions” on Gaza, which is subject to an Israeli blockade.

Israel’s once-strong ties to Turkey soured in 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident.

Some analysts say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is thinking about offsetting the potential loss of Russian energy by rekindling a past proposal to house a pipeline through which it would help export Israel’s offshore natural gas to Europe.

The Turkish prime minister also condemned an attack on the rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib, believed to have been carried out by Russian jets, and said Syria will not be part of “Russian imperialist goals.”

Relations between Ankara and Moscow are already at their worst in recent memory, after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria last month.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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