World Bulletin/News Desk
Three years after the Mavi Marmara incident, in which eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed by Israeli troops, Turkey and Israel have yet to agree on the conditions of a reconciliation.
Exactly three years ago, on May 31, 2010, a humanitarian aid flotilla on a mission to the Gaza Strip was raided by Israeli commandos in international waters. Following the attack, Turkey described the raid as a violation of international law “tantamount to banditry and piracy” and called the killings of activists “state-sponsored terrorism.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even said the attack on the Mavi Marmara ship, which was a part of the aid flotilla, was a “cause for war,” but Turkey chose “to act with patience.”
Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel in the immediate aftermath of the raid, leaving the embassy operational at the level of envoy. But after waiting for 15 months for Israel to formally apologize for the killings with no result, Turkey announced in September 2011 that it had downgraded diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv to the lowest level of second secretary and put on hold all military contracts and ties with the state.
Turkey's move came right after details of a UN report on the attack was leaked and made public that month. The report conceded that the use of force by Israel during the raid was unnecessary and disproportionate, but it justified the Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza.
The report's recommendations failed to meet Turkey's demands, so the state announced the package of sanctions against Israel, stipulating that for bilateral diplomatic relations to be normalized once more, Israel must apologize, pay compensation to the victims' families and lift the blockade on Gaza -- which, in contrast to the UN report, Turkey considered to be illegal. The report was initially intended to be released in February of that year, but it had been delayed to give Israel and Turkey time to reach an agreement without a disruption of relations the findings might have caused.
Since the attack, Israel has made numerous attempts to normalize diplomatic relations with Turkey, but all efforts initially failed because, though Israel had expressed regret several times, it refused to offer a formal apology.
In late March this year, the Israeli government agreed -- through the mediation of US President Barrack Obama -- to apologize. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's apology to Erdoğan over the telephone was well-received by Turkey.
“All our demands have now been met, the apology offered the way we wanted,” Erdoğan said in a speech a day after the phone call. “I accepted the apology in the name of the Turkish people,” he added.
Since then, substantial progress in talks between the two sides seems to have been made, but hurdles on the way to complete reconciliation still exist. This week, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç made it clear that what's important for Turkey in regards to the steps Israel is expected to make is that, along with the apology, compensation and the lifting of the Gaza blockade must be implemented altogether. “Israel needs to take a positive step, particularly in regards to the third [demand, the removal of the blockade],” Arınç revealed. The issue of compensation is not yet totally settled either, the deputy prime minister also admitted. There are one or two issues that still need to be worked out. “We will continue working on these,” he said.
The families of the nine victims have taken the attack on the Mavi Marmara to court in and outside of Turkey. In the court case in Turkey, which was launched against the aggressors in November of last year, the indictment prepared by İstanbul Specially Authorized Prosecutor Mehmet Akif Ekinci seeks 10 aggravated life sentences for the four top Israeli commanders, including the country's chief of General Staff, who were involved in the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
The attack also has recently been taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lawyers of the victims' families filed a complaint in mid-May against Israel at the court in The Hague. “If this case fails to produce a result, this will show that this court is under the hegemony of certain countries and is used only to make some countries toe the line politically,” Ramazan Arıtürk, one of the lawyers of the victims' families said.
The families are determined to pursue a criminal court case against the Israeli commanders involved in the raid, although Israel wants the lawsuits against its soldiers to be dropped as part of the agreement on compensation.Güncelleme Tarihi: 31 Mayıs 2013, 11:03