Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told an Israeli journalist over the weekend that years of diplomatic tension between Israel and Turkey could be resolved through continued talks.
Discussions between Israeli and Turkish officials should continue in order to bring about an end to the diplomatic row sparked by the May 2010 clash between IDF troops and Turkish activists on a ship, the Mavi Marmara, attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. The clash left nine Turkish activists dead and ten IDF soldiers wounded, one seriously.
Speaking to an Israel Radio report on the sidelines of the World Policy Conference in Monaco, Babacan also called for “an end to Israel’s siege on Gaza.”
“Relations with Israel are important to Turkey,” Babacan said, “and I hope they can return to where they were [before the Mavi Marmara incident]. We can restore relations, which have existed for many years,” Babacan added. “Today we have shared interests given the situation in the region and the world.”
Babacan asked Israelis “to understand the trauma the Marmara incident signified for Turks. It was the first time [in many years] that unarmed Turkish citizens were killed by a foreign army. We couldn’t accept that in silence,” Israel Radio reported.
Israeli and Turkish officials are negotiating three Turkish preconditions for the restoration of relations: an Israeli apology, reparations for families of the dead activists and an easing of the siege on Gaza. In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to his opposite number Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a phone conversation arranged at the end of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, for any operational failures that led to loss of life in the Marmara incident.