Ankara, 12 Rabi’ul Akhir 1435/12 February 2014 (MINA) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he demands a “written protocol” from Israel pledging it will lift the siege over the Gaza Strip as a condition for signing a reconciliation agreement and normalizing relations between the two countries.

Speaking at a press conference in Ankara alongside Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Erdogan said that negotiations with Israel have progressed, but have not ended. He added that Turkey has received an apology from Israel, and that talks over compensation for the families of those killed and wounded on the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010 are ongoing.

However, Erdogan said the lifting of the siege over the Gaza Strip – which was one of the conditions set by Turkey for normalizing relations – has not yet transpired. “Nothing will happen without lifting the siege on Gaza,” he said, Palestinian and Israeli news media quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a local television station that Israel and Turkey are closer than ever to normalizing relations between the two countries.

“There has recently been momentum and a new approach in compensation talks,” Davutoglu said. “We could say that most of the differences have been recently removed in these discussions.”

Last week Haaretz reported that Israel has offered to pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the nine people killed during an Israeli commando raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010, as well as to those in the incident.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorized his envoys to go as high as $23 million in order to secure an agreement.

In the interview, Davutoglu refused to state how much Israel would pay Turkey in compensation, but said that the families of the victims would be informed as soon as an agreement was reached.

Noting that easing the embargo on Gaza was another condition for normalizing ties, Davutoglu said that after a reconciliation agreement is signed, Turkey would send a significant diplomatic contingent to Turkey to “monitor and to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Last week, a senior Turkish delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Fridon Sinirlioglu, visited Israel meeting with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Joseph Ciechanover and Foreign Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben-Sheetrit. The talks focused on the compensation amount and the steps Turkey would take to normalize relations and put an end to legal action against Israeli soldiers and officers that were involved in the Mavi Marmara raid.

Israel is demanding that as part of the agreement, Turkey pass a law that will void the pending lawsuits and block such actions in the future.

Jerusalem also wants normalization of relations with Turkey to go beyond the symbolic return of ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara. Israel wants its diplomatic dialogue with Turkey to resume along with ministerial meetings, mutual visits and other steps. Israel also expects Turkey to commit not to act against Israel in international forums and to stop haranguing Israel in the media. (T/P08/E01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)

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