Israel, Turkey ‘close’ to compensation deal

Israel, Turkey ‘close’ to compensation deal

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Israel, Turkey ‘close’ to compensation deal

Nine Turkish citizens killed during the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel conducted by Israel in 2010. Israel apologized to Turkey in 2013 for killings. AFP Photo

Long-lasting negotiations between Turkey and Israel over how to pay compensation and determine the amount of money to be paid to the victims of the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid are nearing completion, with the two sides nearing an agreement on the monetary figure.

Turkish and Israeli diplomatic sources have confirmed that the two countries have nearly agreed on the terms of the agreement that would conclude the process of normalization following Israel’s apology last year to Turkey over the killings of nine Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara.

“There are positive developments with regard to fixing the compensation issue. An agreement is almost ready and is waiting for the finalization of some minor issues before being submitted to the two countries’ leadership,” a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.

Israel apologized to Turkey on March 22, 2013, but the normalization process could not be completed because of differences on the amount of compensation and its legal definition. The two countries’ diplomats met at least four times last year, and the chances of an agreement appear to be rising.

“The amount of compensation for those who were killed and wounded in the Mavi Marmara operation, plus the damages inflicted on the vessel, will be around a few million dollars,” sources said, without giving further details.

Earlier press reports suggested the difference between Turkey and Israel on the amount of money was quite high, but the parties appear to have sought a way to find a middle point in a bid to make a deal possible.

Another problematic issue with regard to the compensation was its legal definition, as Turkey had insisted that Israel accept liability on the attack and the killing of Turkish citizens. Sources underlined Israel could accept responsibility, albeit on the condition that it be given a strong assurance that future criminal cases will not be opened against the Israeli commanders and soldiers who were involved in the attack.

In addition, the deal to be reached between the two countries will automatically abort ongoing criminal cases against Israeli soldiers. The Israeli side wants the agreement to be signed to end the legal dispute between the two parties, as well as provide an opportunity for political reconciliation.

Both countries’ diplomatic sources stressed that although negotiations with regard to the deal are nearing completion, they have been looking for the approval of their respective prime ministers to move forward. In the event that the two countries sign the deal, they will also have to exchange ambassadors immediately so the normalization of ties can become more visible.

Diplomatic sources noted that Turkey was on the eve of a very critical election process and that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan might use the agreement with Israel as another foreign policy victory, in the way he did last year when Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu officially apologized to him following a direct intervention by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Israel welcomes Koru’s participation in Holocaust commemoration

Amid the nitty-gritty work of settling the compensation issue, Turkey has also been taking other steps to effect a diplomatic thaw. Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru recently participated in a Holocaust Commemoration Day held by Kadir Has University on Jan. 27 with contributions from the Jewish community.

Israel welcomed Koru’s attendance, as he became the first major Turkish official to join the Jewish community on commemoration day.

Israel, however, expressed unhappiness that that he emphasized how Turkish citizens of Jewish origin lost their lives in concentration camps.

“They were not killed because of their Turkish citizenship. Millions of people were not killed because of their French citizenship, Polish citizenship and so on. They were killed for being Jewish,” an Israeli source said.