Ya'alon: Turkey wants an apology, not reconciliation

Strategic affairs minister accuses Ankara of preventing reconciliation over 'Marmara' raid; spokesman says there are no plans to hold talks in NY.

yaalon office 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yaalon office 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Wednesday that Turkey's insistence on an Israeli apology for last May's IDF raid on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara does not allow reconciliation talk to progress, Israel Radio reported. 
Ya'alon said that Ankara continues to demand an apology, payment of reparations to victims, and the removal of the Israeli imposed naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, which even the United Nations has authorized as legal.
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This comes after a spokesman for Ya’alon said on Tuesday that the minister has no plans to go to New York this week to hold talks with the Turks about settling the Mavi Marmara issue.
The spokesman said that while Ya’alon will be traveling abroad next week – to South America and then to the US to meet with Jewish organizations – those visits were not related to Turkey or to finding a formula that would put an end to the crisis in Turkish-Israeli ties that resulted from last year’s Gaza flotilla, during which nine Turks were killed after attacking IDF soldiers trying to implement the naval blockade of Gaza.
Ya’alon’s denial that he was headed to New York for talks with the Turks, follows a report that appeared Wednesday on the website of the Turkish daily Hürriyet saying that Israeli and Turkish officials were expected to hold a new round of talks this week, just prior to the release of the UN Palmer Commission’s report that investigated the incident. .
Ya’alon has been involved in negotiations with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirliog˘lu about finding a formula that would put an end to the issue and enable a return to normal ties.
The Turks are demanding an apology for the incident, as well as compensation payment for the victims. Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said that a lifting of the naval blockade of Gaza was also a necessary condition for a renewal of ties.
Israel has said that while it was willing to express regret, it would not apologize. It has said, however, that it would pay compensation as long as this does not open up its soldiers to other legal claims.
Jerusalem has no plans of lifting the naval blockade.
While Defense Minister Ehud Barak has emphasized in recent days the importance of normalizing ties with Turkey, hinting that he would be amenable to some form of apology, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has come out unequivocally against such a move.
Israeli officials said the two sides have recently discussed a possible formula whereby an apology would not be for the whole military action, but rather for isolated “operational mishaps.”
Özdem Sanberk, the Turkish representative on the committee, told Hürriyet that while no date has been set, a meeting will take place before July 27, when former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer is scheduled to submit his report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The report – whose publication has already been delayed twice to give Israeli and Turkish officials time to resolve the differences – is widely believed to uphold Israel’s legality in clamping a naval blockade of Gaza, while criticizing the IDF for using excessive force.
Foreign Ministry officials said they did not have a date at this point for another meeting in New York.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen Yoav Mordechai, meanwhile, told Israel Radio that Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz was well aware of the details of the Palmer Commission report, and will express his opinion on an apology when the matter comes to a discussion in the government, which is expected to take place shortly.