In an apparent bid to single out practices of the elected Israeli government which are disreputable for the Turkish government from the broad framework of the bilateral relationship with Israel, a senior executive of Turkey’s ruling party has said the “friendly” nature of relations with both “the Israeli state and the Israeli people” were undisputable for Turkey.
“There is no final agreement,” underlined Ömer Çelik, a spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), on Dec. 20, while referring to recent reports suggesting Israel and Turkey had struck a deal to normalize ties following high-level bilateral talks in Switzerland.
There is no deal yet which has been signed by both sides, as work on a preliminary draft is still underway, Çelik said at a press conference held while AKP executives was still holding a meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body, the Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK), as chaired by their leader, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
“Certainly the Israeli state and the Israeli people are friends of Turkey. Our criticism so far has been directed at the Israeli government’s extreme behaviors and at its behaviors which we don’t consider legitimate. In this context, the Mavi Marmara attack marked a turning point” Çelik said, referring to the fact that Israel’s once-strong ties to Turkey soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists after storming the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a convoy seeking to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
Turkey had demanded Israel apologize for the assault, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade, Çelik recalled, adding, “The first condition was met, but our two other conditions have not been met.”
A senior Turkish official, who requested anonymity, told reporters on Dec. 18 that progress had been made on Turkey’s key demands to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip and compensation over the 2010 raid.
“We are close to a final framework” for a deal on the normalization of ties, said the official. “There is tangible, positive progress.”
Earlier, Israeli officials revealed that Israel and Turkey in secret talks in Switzerland had reached “understandings” to normalize ties that were downgraded following the deadly 2010 Israeli commando raid.