Tel Aviv, 23 Safar 1438/23 November 2016 (MINA) – In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said efforts still remained underway to see Israel’s decade-long blockade on the Gaza Strip lifted.
During the interview, broadcast Monday evening, Erdogan noted that Turkey had set three conditions for normalizing ties with the Jewish state following a six-year split prompted by Israel’s attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship that left 10 Turkish activists dead in international waters.
“Two of these conditions have been met; namely, an Israeli apology for the attack and compensation for the families of the victims,” Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying.
Lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza, he stressed, had been Turkey’s third condition for normalizing ties.
“Efforts remain underway to fulfill this condition,” Erdogan said, going on to note “the strong possibility that the blockade will be lifted”.
Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli embargo that has deprived the coastal enclave’s 2 million inhabitants of basic commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.
Erdogan also rejected Israeli claims that Palestinian resistance group Hamas — which Tel Aviv describes as a “terrorist” organization — was responsible for violence in the region.
“We want to end this vicious circle [of violence],” he said. “Israel has an arsenal that includes both conventional and atomic weapons. Does its enemy [Hamas] have these?”
Erdogan went on to stress that he did not view Hamas as a “terrorist” group.
“It [Hamas] is a political movement born out of the resistance [against Israeli occupation],” he asserted.
Asked whether he was prepared to play a mediating role between Israel and the Palestinians, Erdogan said that he was — if asked to do so.
“What we want is to see peace prevail in the region,” he said.
“But will Israel move toward a two-state solution?” he asked. “Israel isn’t the owner of the land; you cannot ignore this fact.”
Erdogan blamed the collapse of the peace process on Israel’s insistence on negotiating only with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement while refusing to talk to Hamas.
Erdogan went on to call for the inclusion of Hamas in efforts to resolve all outstanding differences between the Palestinians and Israel.
When asked if he regretted making earlier comments in which he had accused the Jewish state of committing “barbarism that surpasses Hitler” during its 2014 military onslaught against Gaza (which left some 2,300 Palestinian dead), Erdogan said:
“I don’t approve of what Hitler did; nor do I approve of what Israel has done. When it’s a question of so many people dying, it’s irrelevant to ask who was more barbarous.”
Erdogan also criticized Israel’s violations against East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
“Unfortunately, we see Israel trying to seize the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is unacceptable,” he said.
“We must protect this site… because we all know Jerusalem is a holy place to the followers of three religions, and everybody must respect this,” he said.
Sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews, Jerusalem is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which for Muslims represents the world’s third holiest site.
Jews refer to the area as the “Temple Mount,” claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.
As for Israel’s claims that its forces had tried to avoid any casualties during the 2010 raid on Turkey’s Mavi Marmara aid ship, Erdogan said bluntly: “This is a lie and can’t be believed.”
Turkey, he said, possessed documents proving that Israeli forces had raided the Gaza-bound aid ship in international waters.
“Ten of our brothers were martyred on this ship; they [the Israelis] killed them mercilessly,” he said.
Erdogan also stressed that Turkey was an ardent participant in the international fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
He also asserted that weapons provided by the West had fallen into the hands of Daesh terrorists.
“While half of these weapons have gone to the PYD/YPG, the other half has gone to Daesh,” he said, referring to the Syrian wing of the PKK terrorist group.
In August, the Turkish army launched a major offensive — dubbed Operation Euphrates Shield — with the aim of purging Daesh from Syria’s northern border area.
The operation, which remains ongoing, has so far succeeded in clearing some 1,760 square kilometers of territory in northern Syria (roughly 680 square miles) of Daesh terrorists. (T/R07/R01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)