Erdogan Says Gaza Blockade Must Be Lifted Before Full Normalization With Israel
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Israel to compensate flotilla victims and end its blockade of Gaza before full normalization of relations can be restored.
On Friday, as U.S. President Barack Obama was about to depart Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Erdogan and apologized for Israel’s actions during the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident, during which eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed after they attacked Israeli soldiers on board.
Erdogan had accepted Netanyahu’s apology and told the Israeli leader that he would begin working towards full restoration of ties.
But in a public address following the apology, Erdogan called on more concessions from Israel before full relations could be restored. The Turkish leader said “there will be no normalization” without financial compensation for the flotilla incident from Israel as well as the lifting of the Gaza blockade, the Associated Press reported.
“Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry,” Erdogan said.
While Israel and Turkey enjoyed decades of close relations under Turkey’s secular rulers, Erdogan and his conservative Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) has increasingly been critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians since coming to power in 2003. This has included closer relations with the Gaza-based terror group Hamas.
Erdogan also said that he plans on traveling to Gaza in April.
Netanyahu listed Syria, Iran and other critical Middle East challenges as the reasons behind his apology. Israel has lifted many restrictions on Gaza since the flotilla incident, and Netanyahu told Erdogan on Friday that he would continue to lift more restrictions as long as “calm prevailed” in Gaza.