Erdoğan says no rapprochement with Israel until end of Gaza embargo with 'written protocol'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that a “written protocol” is needed for reconciliation with Israel and that Turkey will not sign any such protocol with Israel for rapprochement until Israel lifts its embargo on the Gaza Strip.
Speaking during a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, Erdoğan said the compensation talks for the families of the victims killed during an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound ship in 2010 has progressed but that talks between Turkey and Israel have not reached a final phase, in response to a question on the status of the compensation talks.

He said Turkey had only received an apology from Israel with the mediation of US President Barack Obama. “I believe that a final agreement [on the normalization of relations] should be bound to a protocol, meaning this won’t happen verbally,” Erdoğan said, underlining that for a protocol to be signed, Israel should lift its embargo on the Gaza Strip, which is one of the three conditions set by Turkey for restoring ties with Israel.

“Without the end of the embargo [on the Gaza Strip], there will be no protocol. The embargo needs to be lifted and this should be stated in a written protocol,” he said.

Erdoğan stressed that tragic events have been going on in Palestine, noting: “Thus, without signing a protocol [which also includes lifting the Gaza blockade], taking a step further and waiting for relations to be normalized is not likely. First, a protocol must be signed. After that, the necessary steps can be taken. We have told our colleagues conducting the negotiations this.”

Erdoğan also said that he had shown President Obama pictures of the Mavi Marmara victims but that he did not show any reaction. “Do laws only exist for Israel?” Erdoğan asked, saying there is no possibility of relations returning to normal without signing any protocol that also includes the lifting of the embargo on Gaza.

The Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, a ship owned by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) which was participating in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in 2010, left nine of the activists onboard dead. The aid vessel had been attempting to break Israel’s long-standing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

After the Mavi Marmara incident, Turkey downgraded its ties with the Israeli state by withdrawing its ambassador and expelling the Israeli ambassador from Turkey. Turkey put forward as conditions for reconciliation compensation for the families of the Mavi Marmara victims and a formal apology. Another condition for rapprochement, the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, was added a year after the deadly raid.

Obama, during his visit to Israel in late-March, encouraged a normalization of relations and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently apologized to the Turkish prime minister over the telephone for the 2010 commando raid. Two of Ankara’s demands have yet to be met. Israel has not yet committed to ending its Gaza blockade as part of reconciling with Turkey.

Erdoğan’s remarks on Tuesday came only two days after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said significant progress had been made in the negotiations on compensation and that relations with Israel have progressed to their most promising level since the raid — one that is close to normalization.

“There is a certain rapprochement and momentum in the compensation talks. We can say the differences of opinions [between the two countries] have been reduced in the latest meetings. … A significant distance has been covered on the compensation issue … [Israel’s] compensation payment will bring a number of results,” Davutoğlu said during a televised interview on the A Haber station while he was in Karaman on Sunday, apparently indicating that after an agreement on compensation is reached, the soured relations between Turkey and Israel will get back on track.

Davutoğlu avoided discussing the amount of compensation nor did he specify a date for the agreement, saying only that the important thing is to secure justice for Turkish citizens.

Last week, some reports circulating in the Israeli media hinted at rapprochement, claiming that Turkey and Israel are close to signing a reconciliation agreement and that the strained ties between the two countries are expected to improve in the next few days.

Erdoğan’s remarks on relations with Israel came during a joint press conference with his Spanish counterpart, Rajoy, who paid an official visit to Ankara on Tuesday and had talks with Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. Rajoy also attended the opening ceremony of a metro line in Ankara along with Turkish officials.

Erdoğan and Rajoy also held the fifth intergovernmental summit between Spain and Turkey. The talks were mainly in the fields of defense industry, politics, economy and trade, Erdoğan said. With Rajoy, Erdoğan expressed commitment to boosting trade volume between Turkey and Spain. An agreement on counterterrorism was also signed during the meeting. Erdoğan noted that the interior ministers of both countries had also agreed on a roadmap to fight against terrorism.

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