AKP’s Nov 1 victory turned Israel toward Ankara: Turkish PM

AKP’s Nov 1 victory turned Israel toward Ankara: Turkish PM

Nuray Babacan/Turan Yılmaz - ANKARA
AKP’s Nov 1 victory turned Israel toward Ankara: Turkish PM

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Israel was led to pursue better relations with Turkey due to the overwhelming victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Nov. 1 elections, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.

“There is a need to be cautious. The Nov. 1 elections have had an impact on Israel’s stance. They have relented in regards to certain issues when they saw that the AK Parti would stay in power until 2019,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying by sources during a meeting of his party’s highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), late on Dec. 20.

“There is no deal with Israel yet but progress has been maintained,” he said.

Israel’s once-strong ties to Turkey soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists after storming the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a convoy seeking to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Turkey has demanded Israel apologize for the assault, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade for normalization of ties.

“There are some positive steps that have been taken for the lifting of the blockade and the paying of compensation. They are not warm to totally lifting the blockage of Gaza but they have arrived at a point where they assume they can loosen the blockage for Turkey,” Davutoğlu told AKP’s executives.

“They state that they might not prevent assistance sent to Palestine. As for the compensation, there are international standards on this matter; we seek harmony with these standards. There is flexibility on this issue, too, on the part of Israel,” he said. 

But Davutoğlu emphasized that a final deal was not guaranteed because Israel might eventually cease “fulfilling what falls on its shoulders.”

Numerous efforts to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel have failed, including one initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2013. At the time, Israel bowed to a longstanding demand by Ankara, once a close strategic partner, to apologize formally for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara. However, an agreement to normalize relations has not been achieved.

In a bid to separate actions by the elected Israeli government that anger Turkish government from the broad framework of bilateral relations with Israel, a senior executive of the AKP said the “friendly” nature of relations with both “the Israeli state and the Israeli people” were undisputable for Turkey.

“There is no final agreement,” Ömer Çelik, a spokesperson for ruling AKP, said Dec. 20, while referring to recent reports suggesting Israel and Turkey had struck a deal to normalize ties following high-level bilateral talks in Switzerland. 

There is no deal yet which has been signed by both sides, as work on a preliminary draft is still underway, Çelik said at a press conference held while AKP executives were still attending the MKYK.

“Certainly the Israeli state and the Israeli people are friends of Turkey. Our criticism so far has been directed at the Israeli government’s extreme behavior and at its behavior which we don’t consider legitimate. In this context, the Mavi Marmara attack marked a turning point,” Çelik said.

A senior Turkish official, who requested anonymity, told reporters on Dec. 18 that progress had been made on Turkey’s key demands to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and compensation over the 2010 raid.

“We are close to a final framework” for a deal on the normalization of ties, said the official. “There is tangible, positive progress.”

Earlier, Israeli officials revealed that Israel and Turkey in secret talks in Switzerland had reached “understandings” to normalize ties that were downgraded following the deadly 2010 Israeli commando raid.