Turkish PM Erdoğan set to visit Gaza in April
Turkish PM Erdoğan announced that he is set to visit Gaza next month. AA photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced March 23 that he will visit Gaza, following Israel’s apology from Turkey over the Mavi Marmara raid, made the previous day.
“I may eventually visit Gaza and the West Bank in April. This visit would take place in the context of a general effort to contribute to the resolution process [of the Palestinian issue],” Erdoğan told reporters, adopting the same expression that he coined for the ongoing talks between the government and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had already announced March 22, hours after Israel’s apology, that Erdoğan would visit Gaza in the near future.
Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for Ismael Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas government in the Gaza, confirmed that "Recep Tayyip Erdogan will soon visit the Gaza Strip where he will meet with Prime Minister (Haniyeh)".
Nunu said that Erdogan had called exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal "to tell him Israel had accepted Turkey's conditions: apologies for the murder of the Turkish militants, recognition of (Israel's) responsibility and the lifting of the embargo".
‘Reconciliation could precipitate al-Assad’s fall’
Erdoğan also said that the reconciliation with Israel and the prospect of a resolution of the Palestinian conflict in a new process could accelerate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s fall. “Because there could be some different options available to use. The Jordan visit [of US President Barack Obama] is not a coincidence. I think that the Syria process will accelerate in the positive direction,” he said.
Erdoğan emphasized the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had used the word “apology” and not “regret” in the formal document, adding that the statement was issued in accordance with Turkey’s expectations. He explained that after Netanyahu’s phone call, they had agreed that the first statement would come from Israel. “In the end the United States made it public, then Israel confirmed and we announced that we accepted the apology,” he said’ adding that Israel had shown willingness to issue an apology and compensation in the past but that Turkey had insisted on the abolishment of the Gaza blockade.
However, Erdoğan was cautious regarding the restoration of diplomatic ties by the appointment of ambassadors. “We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” he said, adding that the amount of the compensation would be determined by the competent bodies.
"We took a stand but we managed to resolve the process without being [overly] intractable" he concluded. "We are at the beginning of a process of elevating Turkey to a position so that it will again have a say, initiative and power, as it did in the past."
The Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara ship, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31, 2010, claimed the lives of nine Turkish citizens aboard the vessel. Turkey had frozen its diplomatic ties with Israel after the latter refused to issue a formal apology.