(JNS.org) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that improved relations with Israel can occur once Israel compensates victims of the Gaza flotilla raid and lifts the blockade on Hamas-ruled Gaza, the Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Safak reported Monday.
“There is so much the region could gain from such a normalization process,” Erdogan said.
Yedioth Ahronoth reported that officials in Jerusalem responded, “The ball is in their court. We apologized [for the flotilla incident] and were ready to pay damages. He should stop talking nonsense about the removal of the Gaza blockade, because Turkey knows that there is no such thing, and we are not about to pay more for normalization.”
In May 2010, the Mavi Marmara flotilla attempted to break the naval blockade on Gaza. After Turkish militants attacked Israeli forces on board, nine Turkish citizens were killed in clashes, leading to strained Israeli-Turkish relations.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Monday said that Erdogan’s comments are related to his interest in a recent natural gas deal brokered by Israel.
“I have no doubt that the Turkish president’s declaration regarding his desire to improve relations with Israel stems, among other things, from the advancement in recent months of the gas deal,” said Steinitz.