Turkey’s deputy prime minister rejected the notion that his country is back-pedaling over full normalization of ties with Israel and said he expected negotiations over a compensation package for families of Turkish civilians killed by the IDF to be successful.
“Turkey is talking about full normalization and a return of ties to the way they were before,” Bulent Arinc told Maariv in an interview published on Wednesday. “I expect the talks to succeed. Normalization between Israel and Turkey will increase the chances of regional peace.”
Arinc will head the Turkish delegation to the talks, which are scheduled to start at the beginning of next week and are aimed at settling the amount of compensation Israel will provide to families of Turkish citizens killed in the 2010 IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara.
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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, and his special envoy, attorney Joseph Ciechanover.
Arinc said that Israel’s apology over the flotilla incident and acquiescence to Turkey’s other demands of paying compensation to the families of those who died, as well as easing the blockade on Gaza, have paved the way for re-establishing ties that broke off after the incident. Netanyahu made the apology in a phone call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the end of a visit to Israel in March by US President Barack Obama.
Activists on the Gaza-bound Marmara violently resisted the IDF boarders and in the ensuing clash nine Turkish activists were shot dead.
Turkish diplomatic sources said their government is keen to see a quick conclusion to the talks and that the families of the dead will drop their efforts to sue Israeli officials. The Maariv daily reported that Arinc has already approached the families and explained to them they are better off accepting a negotiated compensation than heading to court, as the latter course could take many years. The Turkish government is ready to send copies of a final negotiated agreement to the various relevant courts to prove that the plaintiffs’ demands have been met.
A major sticking point in reaching an agreement is just how much Israel will pay out to each of the nine families involved. According to the Turkish daily Hurryiet, Israel offered to pay about $70,000 to each family, equivalent to the amount that Turkey paid to the families of 34 Kurdish villagers killed in Uludere in an airstrike by the Turkish air force in 2011. However, Turkey rejected the proposal and also will not settle for the Israel’s followup offer of $100,000 for each family. Turkish authorities argue that whereas Uludere was a mistake, the IDF commandos were acting under direct orders.
Arinc asserted that the crisis between the two countries was diplomatic and did not affect the historic ties between the Jewish and Turkish people. Arınc noted that the Turkish government, is headed by his own Islamic party, recently repaired two synagogues on behalf of the local Jewish community.
According to the report, Turkish sources said that much of Erdogan’s staunchly pro-Palestinian rhetoric, including the announcement of a planned visit to Gaza next month, is to appease the Turkish Muslim community.
Arinc is touted as a possible contender to take over the position of prime minister should Erdogan retire or be forced to due to his reportedly failing health.