Turkey insists on Israel apology

Foreign Minister says country ready for talks with Israel if it first offers apology and compensation for flotilla raid.

    Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called on Israel to end its blockade of Gaza [Reuters]

    Turkey's foreign minister has said that the country wants improved ties with Israel, but that this would be contingent on Israel apologising and offering compensation for its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

    "We have the intention of making peace with Israel," Ahmet Davutoglu told state media on Saturday.

    "Why should we want bad relations with a country with whom we are trying to broker peace," he said, referring to Turkey's mediation between Israel and Syria in 2008.

    "Turkish citizens have been killed in international waters, nothing can cover up this truth," he added.

    "We want to both preserve relations and defend our rights. If our friendship with Israel is to continue, the way for it is to apologise and offer compensation."

    Davutoglu was speaking on the eve of the return of the raided Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, to Istanbul.

    The US and European Union have called on Turkey and Israel to overcome tensions and renew close links that could be used to help with negotiations regarding peace in the Middle East.

    The two countries built strong military and economic ties over the past 15 years, with Turkey becoming Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world.

    However, relations soured when Turkey's government began to increasingly criticise Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

    Relations hit an all-time low in May, when Israeli naval commandos killed nine people from Turkey on board a Gaza-bound ship that tried to break Israel's naval blockade.

    Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv and Turkish leaders denounced Israel repeatedly over the raid.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, has since demanded that Israel end its blockade of Gaza.

    Israeli commandos said they opened fire in self-defence after meeting what they called unexpected resistance when they boarded the ferry.

    While Israel termed the flotilla's attempt to break the blockade an orchestrated provocation, it significantly eased import restrictions over land following the raid.

    High-ranking Israeli and Turkish officials recently held two days of talks in the Swiss capital Geneva aimed at mending ties after Turkey sent aircraft and firefighters to help Israel fight a wildfire earlier this month.

    Israel's preconditions for improved relations are for Turkey to return its ambassador and to remove discussion of the raid from the agenda for talks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?