Practice key to normalization of Israeli relations, says Turkish PM Erdoğan
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
A Palestinian fisherman rides a boat near the port of Gaza City. PM Erdoğan said he wants to wait Israel’s implementation of the agreement, including the ease of embargo on the enclave. AFP photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indicated that the U.S.-brokered fence-mending announcement between Israel and Turkey is only a beginning in the restoring of bilateral relations, noting cautiously that he wants to wait for Israel’s implementation of the agreement.
After the announcement, Erdoğan said Israel had met his demands to apologize for killing nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound activist ship in 2010, pay compensation, and ease the blockade. However, rather than ease the blockade, Erdoğan had insistently demanded a complete end to the blockade throughout the three-year long rift.
Speaking at a public rally held in Eskişehir yesterday, the prime minister sounded a note of caution. “We have said that an apology must be offered, compensation must be paid, and the embargo on Palestine must be lifted. Normalization will not happen as long as these are not fulfilled,” he said.
“Now, with the telephone call, a step has been taken,” Erdoğan said, referring to the March 22 telephone conversation that was initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama and during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a formal apology. “At the moment when implementation is fulfilled, normalization happens. But if the implementation doesn’t take place, then there will be no normalization,” he added.
Visit to Gaza
On March 23, Erdoğan had announced his plans to visit the Palestinian territories.
“It is possible that I will visit Gaza and the West Bank during the course of this month or the next,” Erdoğan said, adding that the visit would serve to facilitate the process of lifting the Israeli embargo on Palestinian territories, as promised by Netanyahu.
In Jerusalem, however, a senior official said yesterday that Israel had not committed to ending its Gaza blockade as part of reconciliation with Turkey and could clamp down even harder on the Palestinian enclave if security was threatened.
“If there is quiet, the processes easing the lives of Gazan residents will continue. But if there is Katyusha [rocket] fire, then these moves will be slowed and even stopped and, if necessary, even reversed,” Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said.
“We did not agree to promise [Turkey] that under any condition we would continue to transfer all the things into Gaza and ease up on the residents of Gaza if there is shooting from there,” Amidror told Israel’s Army Radio. “We do not intend to give up on our right to respond to what happens in Gaza because of the agreement with the Turks.”
Another official told Reuters that Hamas, the Islamist faction that governs Gaza, was still trying to bring in arms, and that this made “the blockade as necessary as ever.” Speaking in a live television interview late on March 22, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the easing of the embargo on Gaza had started and stressed that Turkey would closely monitor the practice concerning the embargo.