Ministers speak of opportunity to improve Turkey ties

Meridor says it's in Israeli, Turkish interest to restore ties; Ayalon suggests Ankara role in Palestinian peace efforts, 'Hurriyet' reports.

Dan Meridor Ramallah Quarry 311 (photo credit: The Israel Project)
Dan Meridor Ramallah Quarry 311
(photo credit: The Israel Project)
It is in the interest of both Israel and Turkey to restore the relations that existed between the two countries prior to diplomatic breakdown over the past two years, Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor told Israel Radio on Friday.
The breakdown, he said, involved not only the flotilla last year but also the behavior of Turkish President Tayyip Recip Erdogan towards President Shimon Peres at the Davos Conference, among other incidents. The flotilla, however, led the Turkish government to demand an apology over the deaths of nine of its citizens, which Israel has thus far refused to issue.
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"There was no desire by Israel to kill Turkish citizens" on the flotilla, Meridor said. "We said from the start that we regretted what happened, that's not something new."
A Channel 2 report Thursday said that Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon was dispatched to Geneva in recent days for talks with Turkish diplomats, where he reportedly said Israel is willing to pay compensation to the families of those killed on the flotilla, but would not apologize. The distinction was made there too, however, between apologizing and Jerusalem's willingness - past and present - the express "regret."
Meridor told Israel Radio that it is important for Jerusalem to improve its relations with Ankara. "We're taking actions, along with the Turks, in order to reach the end of this chapter," the intelligence and atomic energy minister added. "We have an interest in cooperation with Turkey."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon earlier this week, praised the decision made by the Turkish group, IHH, to cancel its participation in the upcoming flotilla to Gaza. He also suggested that Turkey may have a role to play in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, going so far as to say, "[We will] kiss the hands of each and every Turk" if Ankara convinces Hamas to sign onto peace," Turkish Daily the Hurriyet reported.
Referring to the breakdown in ties following last year's flotilla and alluding to an incident in which Ayalon was accused of humiliating the Turkish ambassador to Israel, the deputy foreign minister said that Jerusalem and Ankara should use the opportunity presented by the cancelled participation of Turks in the flotilla to improve their ties.
"I believe what we have lost over the past few years is trust. Now we need to let go of the mutual blame game as to why this trust was lost," the Hurriyet quoted Ayalon as saying.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report