Turkey won't normalize Israel relations until Gaza blockade lifted

Published Thursday, September 13, 2012

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday anyone wishing to mediate an end to a two-year rift between Turkey and Israel should not waste their time unless they could guarantee all of Ankara's demands would be met.

Turkish and Israeli media have said the United States is trying to mediate an end to the dispute but Israeli and Turkish officials have not commented on the reports.

Relations between the Muslim NATO power and the Jewish state fell apart in May 2010 after Israeli commandos raided a Turkish aid ship to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board.

Relations between the two countries, both vital allies of Washington in an unstable region, have been deadlocked since.

Turkey says for ties to be normalized Israel must apologize, pay compensation to the families of the dead and lift the Gaza blockade. Israel, which denies wrongdoing, has offered statements of regret, rather than contrition.

"Our response to those who have called us to talk about Israel has been clear. As long as Israel fails to meet any of these conditions, normalization is not possible," Erdogan told reporters during a visit to the Ukrainian capital.

"If there is a mediator who can guarantee, ensure all three of these, we will say 'yes'. Otherwise, mediators should not waste their time," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week he was open to issuing an "expression of regret on the killing of innocents", similar to a statement from the United States after it mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops last November.

Turkish officials have made no direct comment on Lieberman's remarks but Erdogan's comments on Thursday suggested Ankara would not accept such a statement, which Lieberman said would not amount to an apology.

(Reuters)

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