Israel’s ability to normalize diplomatic relations with Turkey is contingent upon a ceasefire agreement with Hamas to ease the Gaza blockade, a Turkish official said on Monday.
“The negotiations surrounding [the Turkish vessel Mavi] Marmara are proceeding gradually and are interlaced with Hamas’s negotiations on a ceasefire,” Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglo, told Hamas daily al-Resalah, which called the Gaza blockade “a Turkish matter.”
For the past five years, Turkey and Israel have been negotiating the terms of a diplomatic solution to the crisis caused by the May 2010 killing of nine Turkish activists during an IDF commando raid on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which, as part of a six-ship flotilla, attempted to break the Israeli naval blockade imposed on Gaza.
Even before the flotilla, once warm ties between Jerusalem and Ankara soured over Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
Israel imposed the blockade on Gaza following Hamas’s violent takeover of the Strip from Fatah in 2007.
In the extensive al-Resalah interview, held on the heels of a visit by Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal to Ankara last week, Aktay said Turkey is discussing with the government of Greek Cyprus the establishment of a waystation sea port, meant to deliver goods to the Gaza Strip under international supervision. He predicted that an agreement would be reached early next year.
Aktay said that in addition to Turkey’s demand for an official Israeli apology and financial compensation for the Mavi Marmara victims’ families, it expects “a lifting of the Gaza siege in all its forms.”
He noted that Turkey has committed itself to building Gaza’s seaport and airport once Israel agrees to their construction.
Talks on a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants groups have reportedly ramped up in recent days.
London-based daily al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Monday that a Hamas delegation headed by former prime minister Ismail Haniyeh is awaiting Egyptian authorization to leave the Strip through the Rafah crossing and travel to Qatar and Turkey as well as Egypt to discuss the ceasefire proposal.
In Egypt, the delegation hopes to meet the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence, according to the report, which quoted a “high-ranking Hamas official in Gaza.”
According to the report, the Gaza-based leaders are to discuss the details of a ceasefire agreement mediated by former British prime minister and Quartet representative to the Middle East Tony Blair, who had met with Mashaal in Qatar twice in recent weeks.