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May 30, 2016 1:36 pm

Turkish Deputy PM: Jerusalem Conceded on 2 of 3 Conditions for Reconciliation; Ankara Won’t Relinquish Demand That Israel Lift Gaza Blockade

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Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus. Photo: Wikipedia.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus. Photo: Wikipedia.

Though Jerusalem has conceded on two out of three demands made by Turkey during reconciliation talks with the Jewish state, Ankara will not relinquish its insistence that the blockade on the Gaza Strip be lifted, a representative of the government in Ankara said on Monday, the Hebrew news site Walla reported.

In a conversation with journalists following a cabinet meeting, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus called the lifting of the security blockade a “necessary condition” for normalizing relations with Israel.

Turkey is also demanding an official apology and monetary compensation for the deaths of 10 activists on the Mavi Marmara – one of the ships of the “Free Gaza” flotilla in 2010 – at the hands of Israeli commandoes.

Though, according to the report, the Israeli government has agreed to the apology and compensation, it ruled out lifting its naval and aerial blockade on the Hamas-controlled enclave that shares a border with southern Israel and Egypt.

Relations between the two former allies were severed six years ago, when the flotilla, transporting arms and activists from Turkey to Gaza reached Israeli waters and was instructed to halt. When the order was ignored, Israeli commandos – armed mainly with paint-ball guns — boarded the Mavi Marmara and were brutally attacked, with some thrown overboard. In the ensuing battle on the boat, nine people were killed (and a 10th later died of his wounds.)

In March 2013, when US President Barack Obama was on the tarmac of Ben-Gurion Airport — on his way back to Jordan at the end of his first official trip to Israel — he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to phone Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologize. Netanyahu complied.

In the aftermath of that phone call, Israel offered to pay Turkey $20 million in compensation for the flotilla deaths, but Erdogan rejected the offer as insufficient.

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