Turkey-Israel ties expected on Clinton's agenda

US secretary of state is due in Istanbul for talks on the situation in Syria at tail end of Africa trip.

Hillary Clinton in Sandton, South Africa 370 (R) (photo credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
Hillary Clinton in Sandton, South Africa 370 (R)
(photo credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Istanbul on Saturday for talks with Turkish leaders that will focus on the situation in Syria, but are also expected to touch on Israeli-Turkish relations.
The US has long been pressing its two regional allies – Israel and Turkey – to find a formula for rapprochement at a time of upheaval in the region. Clinton raised the issue in Jerusalem during her visit here three weeks ago.
Clinton will visit Turkey on the tail end of her current trip to Africa.
According to the State Department, Clinton will go to Istanbul “for bilateral consultations with the Turkish government on Syria, as well as to cover other timely issues.”
Diplomatic officials would not say whether Clinton was bringing to Istanbul any concrete proposal on how to end the crisis with Israel and repair ties that went into a tailspin in May 2010 following the Mavi Marmara incident.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met two weeks ago with a delegation of senior Turkish journalists brought to the country by the Foreign Ministry.
He said at the time the two countries needed to find a formula that “respects both countries” and would enable an improvement of the relationship.
He did not, however, provide a blueprint regarding how this could be done.
Turkey, which expelled Israel’s ambassador last year, is demanding an Israeli apology, reparation payments to the families of the nine people killed in the incident, and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza.
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.
Israel also wants the Turkish government to agree that any agreement would put an end to the issue, and that there would be no further legal action in Turkey – something Ankara refuses to do.