Turkish Foreign Minister confirms Israel-Turkey talks

The talks between a senior Turkish diplomat and an envoy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were held before the fighting in Gaza.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu says that Turkey had talks with Israel through diplomatic channels to revive bilateral ties. He reiterated that reconciliation is not possible until Ankara's demands are met by the Israeli side, according to Turkey's "Today's Zaman". In a television interview on Sunday, he also said Turkey was actively involved in efforts to bring a halt to the recent eight-day violence in the Gaza Strip and backed the Egyptian-brokered truce.

"Today's Zaman" said that Davutoğlu confirmed a report by daily "Yeni Şafak" that a senior diplomat, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, met with Joseph Ciechanover, an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Geneva to discuss the resumption of diplomatic relations. He said the meeting took place before outbreak of the violence in Gaza.

According to "Yeni Şafak", the Israelis expressed readiness to apologize for the May 2010 killing of nine Turks by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid ship and pay to compensation for families of the victims, in order to restore diplomatic ties with Turkey. That report added, however, that Turkey also requested that Israel lift a blockade of Gaza Strip for normalization of ties, and that the Israeli side signaled that the blockade could be lifted if Turkey becomes a “guarantor” of peace between Israel and Hamas.

According to "Today's Zaman", Davutoğlu did not comment on the "Yeni Şafak" report, saying only that Turkey's demands were not open to negotiation. “We are ready to talk if they say they are ready to meet our conditions,” he said.

As for the Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza, "Today's Zaman" quotes Davutoğlu as saying that Turkey took an active part in the process. "There was contact with the Israeli side to end the fighting in Gaza, which was causing human suffering. If there is a possibility to end a human tragedy, Turkey will talk with anybody,” the foreign minister said. He stated that when the talks entered a deadlock, Turkey offered alternative formulations and had discussions with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on various alternatives before a truce deal was reached.

During "Operation Pillar of Cloud", Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said that Turkey offered to hold bilateral talks with Israel to avoid an escalation in the fighting, despite the crisis between Ankara and Jerusalem. "We expect Israel to immediately end its attack on the Gaza Strip," he said at the time.

Earlier this month, Turkey indicted several IDF officers for alleged "war crimes" during the Mavi Marmara incident, including then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 26, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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