Erdogan says Ankara will not normalise relations unless Israel says sorry for flotilla raid and lifts Gaza blockade.
Israeli marines shot dead nine Turkish passengers on the Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010 [AFP]
Israel says it will stick to its refusal to apologise to Turkey for killing nine of its citizens on a Gaza-bound aid ship, an Israeli official has said.
Wednesday’s announcement, which the official said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conveyed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a telephone call a day earlier, was made days before the publication of the findings of a UN inquiry into the deadly raid of the Mavi Marmara boat last year.
The so-called Palmer report was repeatedly delayed to allow for Israeli-Turkish reconcilliaiton talks amid concern in Washington at the rift between two countries that had been strategic partners in an increasingly volatile Middle East.
Kurt Hoyer, spokesman for the US embassy, said Washington wanted Israel and Turkey “to look for opportunities to get past the current strains in their bilateral relations”.
Israeli officials, citing advance copies of the report, have said it would vindicate Israel’s blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
“We’re firm on not apologising,” the Israeli official said. Asked if Israel might change tack after the Palmer report’s publication, the official said: “Why would we do that? We know the report supports our position.”
Turkey, which like Israel had a delegate on the UN panel headed by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, has said it would not accept such a finding.
Turkey’s prime minister said on Wednesday that his country would never back down on demands for an apology from Israel over its 2010 commando raid.
“As long as Israel does not apologise, pay compensation and remove the embargo over Gaza, it is impossible to heal relations between Turkey and Israel,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
“It is out of the question to step back from our determination on this issue,” he said.
The Mavi Marmara was part of an activist flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza when it was boarded by Israeli marines on the Mediterranean high seas on May 31, 2010.
The marines shot dead nine Turks, including a dual US citizen.
The Palmer report is due to be released on August 20.