Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced March 23 that he will visit Gaza, following Israel’s apology to Turkey over the flotilla raid.
“I may eventually visit Gaza and the West Bank in April. This visit would take place in the context of a general effort to contribute to the resolution process [of the Palestinian issue],” Erdoğan told reporters, adopting the same expression that he coined for the ongoing talks between the government and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had already announced March 22, hours after Israel’s apology, that Erdoğan would visit Gaza in the near future.
Erdoğan emphasized the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had used the word “apology” and not “regret” in the formal document, adding that the statement was issued in accordance with Turkey’s demands. He explained that after Netanyahu’s phone call, they had agreed that the first statement would come from Israel. “In the end the United States made it public, then Israel confirmed and we announced that we accepted the apology,” he said’ adding that Israel had shown willingness to issue an apology and compensation in the past but that Turkey had insisted on the abolishment of the Gaza blockade.
However, Erdoğan was cautious regarding the restoration of diplomatic ties by the appointment of ambassadors. “We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” he said, adding that the amount of the compensation would be determined by the competent bodies.
“We took a stand but we managed to resolve the process without being [overly] intractable” he concluded.
Turkey’s ties with Israel fell to a historic low after Israeli commandos raided in May 2010 the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine Turkish citizens.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in Ankara, saying that relations would not go back to normal unless Israeli government made an official apology, paid compensation to the relatives of the victims and removed blockade on Gaza.
Hurriyet daily/ agencies