Turkish Deputy PM blames Israel for halting progress in normalization talks

Israel wants the compensation to be part of an “ex gratia” payment, meaning it will be made without recognizing any liability or obligation. But Turkey has said must admit the incident was a “wrongful act.”

Turkish Deputy PM blames Israel for halting progress in normalization talks

World Bulletin/News Desk

A Turkish deputy prime minister blamed Israel on Tuesday for stalling negotiations on compensation for the victims of a deadly 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American in international waters.

“Our two conditions have not been accepted by the Israeli side, and that is why the issue has been left hanging in the air despite the fact that we agreed on a general framework on how to move forward,” said Bülent Arınç, who oversees the compensation talks with Israel on behalf of the Turkish government.

Turkey and Israel have by and large agreed on how to work out compensation payments for the victims, relatives and others who might have suffered after the bloody Israeli commando raid on the flotilla, which was attempting to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza despite an Israeli blockade.

The two sides have had two meetings, one in Ankara and the other in Tel Aviv, after three years without a relationship as part of an effort to mend deteriorated diplomatic ties between the former strategic partners. The first meeting was held in April in Ankara with an Israeli delegation led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, meeting with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu. The subsequent meeting was held in early May.

The main sticking point stalling progress in the talks is how to define the compensation in law, Arınç said. The Israeli side wants the settlement of the compensation to be part of an “ex gratia” payment, which means the payment will be made without recognizing any liability or obligation on the part of Israel. Turkey, however, has argued against this, saying that Israel, which has officially apologized to Turkey, must admit the incident was a “wrongful act,” which would indicated that Israel seriously breached the rights of Turkish citizens.

“At the first meeting, we made this clear to the Israeli side. But they tried to bring up the issue for discussion again at the second meeting,” Arınç, himself a lawyer, explained, describing the Israeli assault on pro-Palestinian activists as “piracy in international waters.”

The Turkish deputy prime minister dismissed speculations that both sides also differ on the amount of compensation to be paid to the victims and those who suffered after the Israeli attack. “We do not want to turn this into a discussion on blood money,” he said, stressing that the issue is looked at from a perspective of “principles” and that both sides have agreed on the main points.

“This will be a relationship between one state and another. We already have a draft agreement in place and will bring it to the parliamentary agenda for adoption,” he said, indicating that an international agreement will be made between the two countries to resolve the compensation lawsuits.

“Israel ought to do its part,” Arınç stated.

Arınç also hinted that the US intervened at some point to push for progress in the talks but later withdrew.

The other unresolved issue is the Gaza blockade, he mentioned, admitting, however, that Israel has promised to work with Turkey on easing the Gaza blockade.

The resolution of the compensation issue is important for the rapprochement between the two nations and could lead to an exchange of ambassadors and other diplomatic moves. The talks on compensation came after a thaw in relations between Turkey and Israel, brokered by US President Barack Obama in March. Both Israel and Turkey are important US allies in the Middle East.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has since warned, however, that the restoration of full-fledged diplomatic ties would come only after compensation is paid to the surviving victims of the flotilla raid and the relatives of the deceased and would be dependent on Israel ending all commercial restrictions on the Palestinians.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Temmuz 2013, 11:45