Jerusalem, Ankara to talk in April on compensation to flotilla victims

Jerusalem, Ankara to talk in April on compensation to flotilla victims

Turkish foreign minister says reconciliation effort is in no way related to cooperation on Syria, Iran

Israeli Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the port of Ashdod, May 31, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Israeli Navy vessels escort the Mavi Marmara to the port of Ashdod, May 31, 2010. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

ANKARA — Turkey’s deputy prime minister announced Friday that Turkish and Israeli officials will meet April 12 to work out the amount of compensation to be paid to the victims of an Israeli interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American in 2010.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for “operational errors” in the incident in a phone call last week to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during the final moments of US President Barack Obama’s visit, and agreed to compensate the injured and relatives of the dead.

Turkey accepted the apology but said it wanted to ensure the victims were compensated and that Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods entering Gaza before restoring full diplomatic relations.

Bulent Arinc said Friday an Israeli delegation will travel to Turkey in mid-April. He said the amount of compensation to be requested will be worked out in consultation with experts and the families’ lawyers.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview to Turkish television that Israel’s apology was a result of sustained pressure by Ankara and that the reconciliation effort was in no way related to the possibility of the two countries cooperating on the Syrian and Iranian front.

Turkey is reportedly demanding $1 million for each of the families of the nine men killed after activists attacked IDF commandos who commandeered the boat, which was attempting to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel has said it is willing to pay $100,000 to the families, and the enormous gulf between the expectations of the two countries prompted officials to establish a committee to resolve the matter.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is the most senior minister in the government with substantial diplomatic experience, discussed the issue with Davutoglu on Tuesday.

Former Turkish ambassador to Israel Feridun Sinirlioglu, who is currently an undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, will serve as the committee’s co-chair together with Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, and his special envoy, attorney Joseph Ciechanover.

Turkish media reported that Yitzhak Molcho, who is Netanyahu’s special envoy to negotiations with the Palestinians, will also serve on the committee.

Erdogan called the Israeli apology a “victory” for his country and its allies in the region, including Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported. Erdogan also noted that his phone conversation with Netanyahu had been recorded to make the “process safe.” While the apology was initially welcomed as an important first step toward patching up relations, Erdogan on Tuesday said that an Israeli refusal to lift the blockade would be a deal-breaker.

But Netanyahu, according to the Prime Minister’s Office account of the phone call, did not agree to lift the blockade, which Israel maintains to prevent Hamas importing weapons for use against Israel. Netanyahu told Erdogan ”that Israel has already lifted several restrictions on the movement of civilians and goods to all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, and added that this will continue as long as the quiet is maintained,” Friday’s PMO statement said. “The two leaders agreed to continue to work on improving the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.”

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