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MIDEAST > Israeli PM apologizes to Turkey after Obama push

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Israel and Turkey turn over a new leaf as the former takes the huge step of apologizing to Ankara for the deadly 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara

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The Mavi Marmara is the Turkish aid ship that was boarded by Israeli commandos while attempting to break the blockade on Gaza. Hürriyet photo

The Mavi Marmara is the Turkish aid ship that was boarded by Israeli commandos while attempting to break the blockade on Gaza. Hürriyet photo

Israel issued a formal apology to Turkey and agreed to pay compensation over the Mavi Marmara killings of 2010 on March 22 after a phone conversation between the two countries’ premiers, Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that was brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama. 

Turkey accepted Israel’s apology, sources from the Prime Ministry confirmed, underlining that Israel had also agreed to ease its blockade on Gaza. 

“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” the Israeli statement said. The statement said Netanyahu agreed with Erdoğan to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel, while Ankara agreed to cancel legal proceedings against Israeli soldiers who committed the raid against the Mavi Marmara vessel. 

“The Israeli prime minister apologized on behalf of the Israeli people and our prime minister accepted the apology on behalf of the Turkish people,” said a statement issued by the Turkish Prime Ministry. 

“The two prime ministers have agreed to make an agreement on compensation [and pursuing further legal action],” said the statement, adding that Israel agreed to remove restrictions on the passage of humanitarian goods to Gaza.

Erdoğan also expressed his regret over the deterioration of ties that he described as “vital and strategic for regional peace and stability” and reiterated Turkey’s support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

According to the Israeli statement, Netanyahu told Erdoğan that he had good talks with Obama on the issue of regional cooperation and the importance of Israeli-Turkish relations. The prime minister also expressed regret over the deterioration in bilateral relations and noted his commitment to working out disagreements in order to advance peace and regional stability.

Zionism crisis averted

The Israeli statement also said Netanyahu appreciated Erdoğan’s recent clarification of his controversial remarks on Zionism to a Danish newspaper.

“The prime minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation,” it read. 

Netanyahu also said Israel had already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this would continue as long as the quiet is maintained. The two leaders also agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

Importance of strong friendship and partnership

Netanyahu read the statement to Erdoğan during the phone conversation and expressed the word of “apology” with his wishes to normalize ties between the two countries, Turkish sources said. In return, Erdoğan noted the importance of the strong friendship and cooperation between the Jewish and Turkish people in their phone conversation. 

Turkey had frozen its ties with Israel after the latter refused to apologize and pay compensation to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara tragedy that claimed the lives of nine Turkish citizens on board the vessel, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

Turkey and Israel conducted secret diplomatic talks on several occasions but failed to agree over the terms of the apology at the last minute. The earlier negotiations conducted by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Netanyahu’s chief adviser, Joseph Ciechanover, were suspended due to a disagreement within the Israeli coalition government, as hardliners in the Israeli government pressed Netanyahu not to apologize but express regret over the killings. Netanyahu, who has formed a new government but has delayed appointing a foreign minister because his coalition partner, ex-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is facing serious corruption claims, used the opportunity to overcome a major problem in his foreign policy agenda. 

US mediation brought apology

Already isolated in the region, Israel sees reconciliation with Turkey as necessary, especially when both counties’ common neighbor, Syria, is experiencing significant turmoil that could spill beyond the country’s borders. Obama’s visit to the region sparked expectations that the U.S. would exert strong pressure on both sides, and the phone call between Erdoğan and Netanyahu came as the Israeli prime minister was traveling with Obama on March 22. 

However, Turkish sources said the talks for a potential Israeli move started on March 20, the day Obama landed in Israel. 

The phone conversation of Turkish and Israeli leaders was announced by the White House just before Obama was set to leave Israel late afternoon on March 22. 

“The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security,” Obama said in the statement released by the White House just before he ended a visit to Israel.

 “I am hopeful that today’s exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities,” the president said.

Turkey, Israel to work together for Gaza 

Turkey and Israel also agreed to jointly work to improve the humanitarian conditions of Gaza, part of a bid to fulfill Turkey’s third condition of reconciling with Israel. Israel has already shown flexibility in easing its blockade on Gaza after a week-long military operation into Gaza. In one gesture, Israel allowed the passage of Turkish trucks carrying construction materials to Gaza to be used in building a hospital in the enclave. 

With the apology and the agreement to normalize ties, the first step both sides could consider is increasing the level of diplomatic representation and appointing ambassadors to each other’s capitals. Sources, however, said this would still take time as the reconciliation process will follow a road map to be crafted by both sides’ diplomats.

March/22/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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john albay

3/30/2013 12:12:07 AM

I still dont trust the zionist jews, they lie all the time and commit crimes against humanity against gaza and its citizens. Better not to have any dealings with israel as they always break their word and can never be trusted!

Murat

3/27/2013 5:04:57 AM

Pathetic apologists really. Such a spectacle. Multiple shots to head and back of unarmed men in self-defense? Turns out Erdogan was right about Zionism after all.

Ivan Jones

3/25/2013 3:41:43 PM

Attacking armed soldiers or policemen with steel pipes can only lead to one outcome. Obviously, the soldiers acted in self defense. It is possible that some of them lost their self control, after being hit over the head. This would explain multiple shots that some of the attackers received. It is very hard to keep your cool in such a situation and evaluate what is a proportional response. From the reports I read, the core group of the attackers were ready to "martyr" themselves.

Baris

3/25/2013 1:07:11 AM

Ahmet Ahmet, problem with the video is Israel didn’t release the bits showing the killings and confiscated video shot by the passengers. Why? For the accounts I recommend UNHRC report A/HRC/15/21. In particular read what happened to Furkan Dogan. Even Palmer report criticises Israel for using excessive force against civilians and mistreating passengers during and after the event. It says Israel hasn’t accounted for shooting the deceased “multiple times, including in the back, or at close range".

Faruk Timuroglu

3/24/2013 11:02:52 PM

Noam Chomsky who was not surprised the Israeli PM apologizing to Turkey, “Israel may need to use military bases in Turkey in a probable attack on Iran,” says. It would worth the apology! Obama should kiss both RTE and BB for obedience in such a critical moment, he needs them to obey.

cloud chaser

3/24/2013 8:02:30 PM

So, let me get the facts straight - Turks provoke Israel in several ways including warm welcome to child murderers, Then they get upset when some provocateurs with more courage than sense gets killed attacking armed soldiers, and get on the moral high horse for backing the same people who keeps cheering Assad for doing much worse in a couple of years then Israel did in 60 years altogether. Am I missing something?

Ahmet Ahmet

3/24/2013 7:01:37 PM

Baris. Watch the video, read the accounts of what happened. The IDF acted in self-defense when acted.

Baris

3/24/2013 5:56:29 PM

Red Tail, IDF were indeed attacked by a mob with knives and iron bars. The point, however, is that IDF's retaliation was excessive and there is evidence, as captured in various reports, that IDF deliberately killed people by firing multiple bullets into their heads and their back. IDF humiliated passengers and beat some of them up. IDF knew there was going to be resistance but still chose to board the ship in a clumsy way, jeopardising the lives of women and children on board. No excuse for it.

cezer "çapulcu" skonore

3/24/2013 5:20:14 PM

Red Tail, you forgot the kitchen spatula, pans and pots. Must be very scary for the Israeli solders.

Red Tail

3/24/2013 4:05:40 PM

Baris. You forgot one fact. The "opening fire among civilians" was because the Israelis were attacked by a mob armed with iron rods and knives. What would you do in the same situation?
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