Turkey: No deal with Israel until Gaza siege lifted

Turkey: No deal with Israel until Gaza siege lifted
2 min read
29 December, 2015
Ankara has said that it will not go into talks softly with Israel and demands a lifting of the Gaza siege and compensation for families of pro-Palestinian Turkish activists.
Israel's blockade on Gaza has crippled the economy of the Palestinian territory [AFP]
Ties between Turkey and Israel will not be repaired unless a crippling blockade on Gaza is lifted, Ankara has said.

Turkish officials will not "relinquish commitments to Palestinian rights" as negotiations take place with Israel, a government spokesperson said on Monday. 

Ibrahim Kalin also said that Ankara would not compromise on demands that Israel must pay compensation to the families of ten Turkish activists killed by Israeli commandos in 2010.

It comes as speculation mounts that Turkey and Israel are on the verge of repairing shattered ties.

Diplomatic relations were severed five years ago when Israeli forces stormed a flotilla attempting to break the siege of Gaza, resulting in ten Turkish Palestinian solidarity campaigners being shot dead.

Since then, relations have remained frosty - while the rhetoric has been heated.
Read more: Could Turkish-Israel deal ease blockade on Gaza Strip?

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of a nominally Islamist party, has basked in his popularity at home and abroad for taking a stand against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's bellicose administration.

However, ties between the two are well-entrenched - particularly military links - making it inevitable that rapprochement would eventually come about.

This month senior officials from both countries met for negotiations. It centred on the prospect of a gas deal, after Turkey's former chief supplier - Russia - launched a trade war against Ankara amid contention over Syria.

Instead, Turkey turned to its former regional ally to buy gas and lay pipelines.

But Erdogan still appears to be playing hard to get and not willing to sacrifice his pro-Palestinian credentials for the sake of cheap gas.

"Turkey will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached, and the Palestinian people have their own state. There cannot be permanent peace in the region until the Palestinian problem is solved," Reuters reported Kalin as saying.

Erdogan's reputation in the region enjoyed a boom in 2010 when he cut ties with Israel.

However, Turkey's support for Syrian rebel groups and harsh measures against domestic critics have hurt his support in some quarters of the Arab world.

It has also cost Turkey economically and politically, as ties between former trading partners Iran, Syria, Iraq and Russia worsened.

But Erdogan's insistence on reaching a deal that gives the Palestinians some gains could help him save face.

He has reportedly kept Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal informed on negotiations with Tel Aviv.

Erdogan might see his objective goals as a way of boosting his reputation in the region - as the man who won Palestinians some rights.

It could also help restore Turkish pride at home with Israeli acknowledgement of its murder of flotilla activists.