Erdogan: Israel must apologize to normalize relations

Finalized report delayed publication so countries can continue seeking formula to repair ties; expected to uphold legality of Gaza blockade.

Tayyip Erdogan 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)
Tayyip Erdogan 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it was "unthinkable" to normalize ties with Israel unless the Jewish state apologized for the killing of nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists aboard a Turkish ship bound for Gaza last year.
Erdogan also said in the text of a speech to parliament seen by Reuters that lifting an Israeli blockade on the Palestinian territory of Gaza and paying compensation to the victims of the raid were also conditions for the normalization of relations.
RELATED:Israeli-Turkish talks in NY fail to find way to end crisis Israeli, Turkish diplomats looking to end ‘Marmara’ crisis
The Turkish prime minister made the comments as Turkish and Israeli officials were meeting in New York to discuss repairing the tarnished ties between the two countries. On Thursday, senior Israeli government officials said that the UN’s Palmer Commission Report on the Mavi Marmara incident will not be released until July 27, enabling Israel and Turkey to continue looking for a formula on the matter that will enable reestablishment of normal relations.
According to the officials, Israeli and Turkish officials were informed by the UN Thursday that even though the report has been completed, it will not be published for another three weeks.
The report – which is widely believed to uphold the legality of Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, but takes the IDF to task for excessive force – was to have been released on Thursday.
According to officials, the US was involved in delaying the publication of the report so that negotiations between the two sides could continue.
The report was originally scheduled to have been released on May 15, but was postponed at the request of the Turks, apparently concerned about the impact the report – which reportedly holds Turkey responsible to a large degree for the events – would have on the Turkish public before the June 12 elections there.
Both sides wrote an appendix to the original report, responding to specific points in it.
The commission is headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, and co-chaired by former Colombian president Alvar Uribe.
Israel is represented on the panel by Joseph Ciechanover, and the Turks by Ozden Sanberk.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has directed Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon to continue contacts with the Turks. Ya’alon met earlier this week in New York with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu to hammer out a formula, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement.
While the Turks are demanding an Israeli apology and compensation to the families of the nine people killed in the incident, Israel has said that while it was willing to pay compensation – as long as it was done in a way that would not enable future legal claims – it would not apologize.
Rather, Jerusalem has said it would be willing to express regret for the loss of life.