Israel hints at apology to Turkey over Gaza flotilla

Ayalon tells 'Hürriyet' gov't may attempt to smooth relations by using diplomatic language; Liberman advocates "expression of regret."

Danny Ayalon 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
Danny Ayalon 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Turkish daily Hürriyet on Thursday that Israel may use diplomatic language inspired by the letter sent by Washington to Islamabad over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in order end the impasse with Ankara.
“I see some kind of improvement and opportunities,” Ayalon was quoted as saying, citing the "American-Pakistani formula" as an idea to renegotiate relations.
“Remember, recently there were 24 Pakistani soldiers killed by mistake by American forces, and the Americans sent a letter that was accepted in Pakistan. And I believe this could be a good platform to clear away the issue,” Hürriyet quoted Ayalon as saying.
According to Hürriyet, when pressed to define the statement as an apology, Ayalon responded positively.
"If you read the text, I think that should be very clear to everyone. The American text that was sent to Pakistan, I think this is a good base to work [from]. This is what I suggest," Hürriyet quoted Ayalon as saying.Commenting on the status of communication, Ayalon said Israel is engaging in back channel discussions with Turkey.
“Right now, we have some lower level and we have some back channels,” Ayalon said.
Relations between the Turkey and the Muslim NATO power, a mainstay of Washington's influence in an unstable region, fell apart after Israel's navy killed nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists who tried to breach its blockade of Gaza in May 2010.
On a similar vein, Avigdor Liberman also said on Tuesday that he was open to taking a page from US diplomacy in crafting a statement to try to mend ties between the two nations.
Liberman noted that, after the United States mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an air strike last November on the Afghan border, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country was "sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military" and that Washington was "committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from every happening again".
Liberman said Clinton's statement could not be called an apology, "but an expression of regret on the killing of innocents".
"I say to you if this is the wording - if the Turks accept the American wording - I will certainly go with it. This is what I am willing to accept," he told his party in a speech whose transcript was provided to Reuters.
The signal from Liberman, a powerful partner in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition government, was significant because he had been among the Israeli leaders most vocally opposed to accommodating the Turks' rapprochement demands.
Turkish officials had no immediate comment on Liberman's remarks. Ankara in the past has said it did not need a third party to mediate with Israel, saying all its communication channels were open and that if it wanted it would talk to Israel directly.