Alexa

Turkey still pushing for apology from Israel

Turkey still pushing for apology from Israel

Turkey's ruling party on Thursday said the country's ties to Israel could be normalized if the Jewish state apologizes for the killing of nine pro-Palestinian activists last year and accepts to pay compensation to their families.
Turkish-Israeli relations hit a low last week after a U.N. report on the deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship last year said that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza was legitimate but its raid on the flotilla trying to break the blockade "excessive and unreasonable."
Turkey has since expelled top Israeli diplomats, cut military ties with the country, pledged to lobby other nations in support of the Palestinians' statehood bid at the United Nations in September and promised increased Turkish naval patrols in the Mediterranean.
In response to Turkey's moves, Israel has been conciliatory. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Wednesday evening in an address to a military ceremony that the worsening of ties "was not our choice."
"We respect the Turkish people and its traditions and want to improve ties," Netanyahu said.
Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives aboard the flotilla, but it has refused to apologize, saying its forces acted in self-defense.
Turkey, however, is still seeking an apology in order to normalize a relationship once seen as a cornerstone of regional stability.
"Infact, not all bridges are burned with Israel," said Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party. "Our embassy in Israel is open, and the Israeli embassy in Ankara is open. The relations would return to the old days if Israel apologizes and accepts to pay compensation."
The rift with Israel led to a fierce debate between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party and the main opposition Republican People's Party, which called the government's foreign policy "a fiasco," drawing angry responses from Cabinet ministers which in return accused the main opposition party of as acting "Israel's advocate."
Washington wants ties between the two allies to normalize as soon as possible, said Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey.
"The door for diplomacy must remain open," Ricciardone told reporters in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Thursday.
Turkey's sports minister, meanwhile, assured Israeli football club Maccabi Tel Aviv of its safety ahead of next week's Europa League game against Turkish club Besiktas in Istanbul.
Suat Kilic told a televised news conference Thursday that the match will be played in the "highest level of (Turkish) hospitality," next Thursday and Israeli players will "safely" return home.
"There are problems on various issues between Turkey and Israel but it is not a situation that could prevent this match," Kilic said, opposing calls from Israel to have the game to be played at a neutral venue. "The Israel team will play its game against Besiktas in comfort and return home."
Turkey took strict security measures during last year's European Volleyball League tournament and closed a game between Turkey and Israel to the public. A small group of protesters were stopped by police two blocks away from the venue as they voiced anger over Israel's May 31 raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.
Before another volleyball match between Israel and Serbia during the tournament in July, protesters scuffled with police, pounding police shields with Palestinian flags.