Ankara said to demand unrestricted access to Gaza
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Ankara said to demand unrestricted access to Gaza

Turkish paper says key demand in reconciliation talks with Israel is free passage to deliver aid to Palestinian territory

Palestinian fishermen sit in their boat off the shores of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, as an Israeli police boat is seen in the distance, March 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Said Khatib)
Palestinian fishermen sit in their boat off the shores of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, as an Israeli police boat is seen in the distance, March 26, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Said Khatib)

Turkey is reportedly demanding that Israel give it unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip to deliver goods to the blockaded Palestinian territory, as a condition for restoring normal ties between the two countries, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported Saturday.

The report claimed that Turkish officials wanted free shipping access to Gaza in order to provide aid to the impoverished territory. A government source told the newspaper Ankara would not back down from the demand and if it were not accepted “the entire negotiation process may collapse.”

The paper said Hamas was glad of the reconciliation talks between Jerusalem and Ankara, as it would welcome an opening of the Israeli naval blockade on the Strip.

It further asserted that relations could have been restored as early as 2013, but that Israel had until recently not showed particular keenness to resolve the dispute. It cited Egypt’s reemergence as a regional ally to Israel and Jerusalem’s belief at one time that Turkey’s ruling AKP party may be driven out of power — since proven false — as reasons for the delay.

Saturday’s report appeared to agree with statements made on Thursday by a Turkish minister, who said Israel would allow Turkish products into Gaza as part of any agreement.

Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci made the prediction at a news conference of the Economy Correspondents’ Association, the Journal of Turkish Weekly reported.

“If agreement can be reached between the two countries, Israel will allow Turkish origin products and aid material through Turkey into the Gaza Strip.” Tufenkci was quoted as saying. “Israel will remove obstacles surrounding the movement of goods from Turkey to the Gaza Strip.”

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a press conference at the NATO headquarters on November 30, 2015 in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a press conference at the NATO headquarters on November 30, 2015 in Brussels. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

Earlier this week Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a meeting of his party that Israel was flexible on easing elements of its part in an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

However, Davutoglu cautioned that there was still no agreement between the two countries, whose former friendship has eroded into a fierce rivalry in recent years.

“There is progress,” Davutoglu told the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the meeting Sunday, “but there is still no deal.”

The Turkish leader said that Israel was also willing to be accommodating over Ankara’s demands for compensation for families of those killed or hurt during an IDF raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

“Regarding compensation, one has to act according to international standards,” he said. “We want the solution to be in total accord with those standards. Israel also showed flexibility with regard to that.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Likud faction meeting Monday that “we’re not there yet” on an agreement with Turkey, according to a senior official who was present, Haaretz reported.

“The agreement isn’t even half-baked,” the senior official said.

Relations between Jerusalem and Ankara broke down after the Israeli Navy intercepted a flotilla that was seeking to breach Israel’s blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in May 2010. The Israeli raid ended with nine dead Turkish activists and dozens wounded, after Naval commandos were attacked with clubs and poles as they boarded the vessel.

Tension between the countries, already high, escalated further, and current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then the prime minister, recalled his ambassador. Israel recalled its own ambassador in retaliation and Turkey also began legal proceedings against senior IDF officials, including then-chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then Navy commander Eliezer Marom.

Reconciliation talks resumed in June after a break of more than a year.

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