ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled a possible warming of relations with Israel, saying in comments published Monday that the entire region would benefit from the normalization of ties.
Relations between former allies Turkey and Israel broke down in 2010 after an Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American. In the aftermath of the raid, Turkey became one of the strongest critics of Israeli actions in Gaza.
Israel apologized to Turkey for the deaths and agreed to compensate the victims’ families under a U.S.-brokered arrangement in 2013. But efforts to restore ties faltered amid new Israeli action in Gaza.
Erdogan told a group of journalists during a flight back from a trip to Turkmenistan that “normalization with Israel” was possible if the sides can finalize a compensation deal for the raid’s victims and if Israel lifts a blockade against Palestinians. His words were reported by Yeni Safak newspaper and other media on Monday.
“We had three (conditions); an apology which happened; compensation which did not happen, and the lifting of the embargo on Palestine,” Yeni Safak quoted Erdogan as saying. “If the compensation issue and the lifting of the embargo are achieved then we can enter a process of normalization.”
“There is so much that we, Israel, Palestine and the region can gain from such a normalization process. The region is in need of this,” Erdogan said.
Last year, Erdogan spoke out strongly against Israel’s operations in Gaza, accusing it of committing genocide and “barbarism surpassing Hitler.”