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Ankara sends a warning to Israel, saying it must not engage in any ‘horse trading’ in discussing compensation for the Mavi Marmara raid

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People gather in front of the Mavi Marmara boat where pictures of the Israeli raid’s victims are shown. Israel is willing to pay $100,000 per victim. DAILY NEWS photo

People gather in front of the Mavi Marmara boat where pictures of the Israeli raid’s victims are shown. Israel is willing to pay $100,000 per victim. DAILY NEWS photo

Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Compensation talks between Turkey and Israel over the latter’s killings of nine Turkish citizens on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara vessel should not turn into “dirty bargaining,” Turkish officials have said, adding that Israel should prepare to pay a substantial amount to the victims’ families.

“Israel should perfectly know that this is not a process of bargaining. Compensation talks should not be turned into horse trading or dirty bargaining. We want to solve this issue in next week’s talks,” a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. 

After Israel apologized late last month to Turkey over its attack against the vessel carrying activists to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31, 2010, the two countries agreed to hold talks to determine the amount of compensation and other legal terms as part of Turkey’s second condition for the normalization of their strained bilateral relations. 

Both Turkish and Israeli officials, as well as Americans as the mediator between its two allies, have admitted that the talks will not be easy, while expressing their conviction that next week’s negotiations will not hinder the reconciliation process. 

The Turkish side will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, but technical talks will be chaired by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu. A group of international legal experts will accompany him during the talks. The government’s decision to appoint Arınç as the head of the delegation is also important as he is seen as the Cabinet minister best-placed to explain the talks and deflect public criticism.

The Israeli side will also be represented by senior diplomats, including Yaakov Amidror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, along with Netanyahu’s special envoy Joseph Ciechanover; both men signify the importance Israel has attached to the talks. 

“We want to close this issue in one session. Discussing human life for money is not a pleasant thing. This should be concluded in a most appropriate way,” the source said. 

According to unconfirmed Israeli press reports, Israel is willing to pay $100,000 per victim. Although they have not specified the amount of compensation in mind, Turkish officials have said “it should be a substantial amount.” 

Uludere cannot be compared to Mavi Marmara

Turkish experts studied similar examples from the past in which countries paid compensation to other nations’ citizens over acts that caused casualties. The studies showed that the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara differed from many other cases because it was intentional. As such, the Israeli effort to pay an amount similar to the 123,000 Turkish Liras ($69,000) paid by the Turkish government for the victims of the Uludere attack, in which the military killed 34 villagers in southeastern Anatolia in 2011, is inadmissible, according to Turkish officials.

Officials said the Mavi Marmara incident was far graver because it was overtly conducted upon the clear orders of the government, resulting in the killing of nine Turkish citizens. One other Turkish citizen was declared brain dead after the attack, making the number of families seeking compensation 10. 

Israel has conditions, too

The Israeli side, however, has demanded the end of all court cases against Israeli soldiers before it will discuss the issue of compensation, as per the terms of the apology agreement reached last month. Arınç openly advised the families to withdraw their cases in an interview, hinting that they might not get their money if they continue with their cases. He also recalled that court cases could last “years.” However, there are reports that not all families have been convinced to do so, potentially putting the compensation issue at risk. 

Officials, however, expressed their commitment to dealing with the problem and agreeing on compensation terms next week, regardless of whether or not families withdraw their cases. The agreement could include assurances provided by the Turkish government that it will not take any measures against the accused Israeli soldiers. 

To this end, the government could send a copy of the compensation agreement between Turkey and Israel to the relevant courts in a bid to inform them the financial demands of the complainants have been met. 

Apart from the cases opened by the families of the victims of the Mavi Marmara, there is also an ongoing criminal case against Israel, although it is unclear whether the case will be automatically dropped if Israel agrees to pay compensation.

April/15/2013

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