Turkey's last offer to Israel: Three options on table
BİSHKEK/ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 7/4/2010 12:00:00 AM | SERKAN DEMİRTAŞ
1. Apologize2. Accept the international, impartial inquiry and its conclusion3. Give up ties with Turkey
A week after top Turkish and Israeli officials held a “secret meeting” over the flotilla crisis, Turkey has renewed its warning to Israel that ties between the once-allies would be cut if Tel Aviv does not apologize.
“Israelis have three options: They will either apologize or acknowledge an international-impartial inquiry and its conclusion. Otherwise, our diplomatic ties will be cut off,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review early Sunday in an interview on his plane returning from Kyrgyzstan.
Davutoğlu held a secret meeting with Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week in Brussels and repeated Turkey’s expectations from Tel Aviv over Israel's raid on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Eight Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish descent were killed during the raid, which triggered a crisis between Turkey and Israel, once regional allies. Turkey recalled its envoy to Tel Aviv, canceled joint military drills and banned some Israeli military flights from using Turkish airspace. Israel refused to participate in an international inquiry commission but instead launched its own investigation into the raid.
“We showed them an exit road. If they apologize as a result of their own investigation’s conclusion, that would be fine for us. But of course we first have to see it,” he said.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that Israel would neither apologize to Turkey nor compensate the victims of the Mavi Marmara. “Then the ties will never be repaired,” Davutoğlu said in response to Netanyahu’s remarks.
“They are aware of our demands. If they do not want to apologize, then they should accept an international investigation,” he said, adding that Turkey would not wait for Israel’s decision indefinitely.
Turkey is now awaiting the creation of a United Nations-backed fact-finding commission for the raid. “We’ll arrange our road map according to the development there,” he said.
“We also want to give a chance to the countries who value mending the ties between Turkey and Israel,” Davutoğlu said, referring to the United States. Netanyahu will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, and Davutoğlu said this would be an important meeting for the future of Turkish-Israeli ties.
“But,” he said, “there should be no confusion. Our meeting with Ben-Eliezer was not brokered by the U.S. We informed Obama of the meeting during the G-20 summit in Toronto.” The foreign minister also said he met with Ben-Eliezer as “Netanyahu’s special envoy: “Otherwise, why would I speak with Israel’s infrastructure minister?”
[HH] Airspace fully banned
If Israel does not meet Ankara’s expectations, the Turkish government has drafted a road map that includes measures to be taken against the country. One of the measures, however, was taken shortly after the flotilla raid, Davutoğlu said.
“Turkey’s airspace is fully closed to Israeli military planes. The ban is not implemented case-by-case. It’s a blanket ban,” he said, adding that the decision was made one week after the incident occurred and with the participation of the Turkish military. When asked, he said the ban could also be expanded to include civilian aircraft.
“If steps are not taken [by Israel], the process of isolation will continue," the minister said. "We know what we want. We are right in all means. We will strictly follow [this path] until our demands are met."
[HH] Psychological pressure on Turkey
Davutoğlu also discussed claims that Turkish foreign policy was experiencing a “shift in axis."
“The purpose is clear. The purpose of [launching] such claims are to establish psychological pressure on Turkey. Suppressing its foreign policy and confining it to a more defensive position. While we are trying to be the subject, they are trying to keep us as an object in international relations,” he said.
Emphasizing that Turkey was sure of its motivation and direction, Davutoğlu said: “We do not have to convince anybody about our diplomatic initiatives. If we are doing something, it's for Turkey’s interests.”
[HH] Summer of 2010 concerns FM
When asked for his assessment of developments in the region, what Davutoğlu depicted was not a very optimistic situation, especially in the Caucasus and Middle East. “The ground in these regions is very slippery. This concerns me,” he said.
“None of these regions is witnessing a functioning mechanism to solve disputes. There are no healthy dialogues among the relevant parties,” he said, without giving details.
In the Caucasus, major conflicts remain between Georgia and Russia over the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh problem also remains unsolved. In the Middle East, the situation is more complicated. Processes for mediating between Israel and Palestine or Israel and Syria seem to be dead.
“We have to be careful. It is only Turkey that can contribute to resolving these problems,” he said, adding that the Tehran Agreement brokered by Turkey and Iran was in fact aiming to stop the further deterioration of the situation in the region. “That was not understood by the international community.”