Turkey, Israel in ‘positive’ talks over compensation

Turkey, Israel in ‘positive’ talks over compensation

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, Israel in ‘positive’ talks over compensation

Israeli officials meet Turkish officials, led by Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu. Hürriyet Daily News photo Selahattin Sönmez

A meeting between Turkey and Israel yesterday to discuss the terms of compensation for the 2010 Mavi Marmara raid was “positive,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç.

“I can say that it was a positive meeting,” he told a press conference following a Cabinet meeting. “We are of the same opinion that this issue should be quickly resolved.”

Arınç said the amount of compensation was not discussed at the meeting, instead the principles and parameters to be used to calculate the compensation were determined. “The results will be announced when a complete agreement is reached and approved by the competent bodies of both sides,” he said.

Arınç said the nine Turks killed were travelling on a civilian vessel carrying humanitarian aid and were “martyrs.”

“There are 27 compensation cases filed by the victims, three by the relatives of the killed and the others by the survivors,” he said.

Following the lengthy meeting at the Foreign Ministry headquarters, the Israeli delegation proceeded to the Prime Ministry headquarters for a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who has the role of coordinator in the compensation talks.

Turkish officials told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday that the meeting would aim to determine the criteria to be used for the amount of compensation via a review of the literature concerning international law, rather than attempt to set an exact amount for the compensation.

Turkish officials have so far steadfastly refrained from citing any amount for the compensation on the grounds that such action would be hurtful to the families of the victims.

In the event of an eventual agreement, the compensation is expected to be transferred by Israel to a Turkish governmental fund. By resorting to such a maneuver, the Turkish government’s hands will be freer vis-à-vis the families’ insistence that an embargo and blockade of Gaza be lifted before they accept any offer from the Israeli side.

The Israeli delegation’s visit comes amid heavy diplomatic traffic to Turkey, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Istanbul on April 20-21 for the Friends of Syria Core Group meeting, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Istanbul yesterday for meetings with President Abdullah Gül. Abbas was set to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara as the Hürriyet Daily News went to print.

Speaking during a press conference in Istanbul on April 21, Kerry remarkably disclosed his appeal to Erdoğan to put off a planned visit to Gaza to avoid disrupting efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

As for the Abbas leadership, it is known that Ramallah maintains that such a visit to Gaza would be more beneficial if it comes after progress in the reconciliation process between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, which is expected to occur at a mini-summit in Doha in the near future.

A tight schedule 

The relationship between Turkey and Israel, which was largely frozen after the latter’s deadly 2010 flotilla attack that killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists, has recently seen a thaw after the Israeli prime minister apologized for the raid. Compensation to the victims of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara ship and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Erdoğan were Turkey’s core conditions for normalizing ties between the once-strong allies. However, days before the Israeli mission’s arrival, families of the victims spoke out against compensation, saying Israel must first fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Erdoğan, meanwhile, is set to hold a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on May 16 and is intending to visit Gaza at the end of May.

At the White House meeting, both the Turkish and the U.S. sides would like to present a concrete accomplishment that would facilitate the revival of the Middle East peace process – whether it be a step forward in Turkish-Israeli relations, such as the finalization of the compensation matter, or progress brokered by Turkey in regard to reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Likewise, Erdoğan would like to be able to point to concrete gains in regards to Israel’s fulfillment of Turkey’s conditions for the normalization of relations, particularly in regards to lifting of the blockade and embargo, when he visits the Hamas-controlled enclave of Gaza.