ANKARA: Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday ties with Israel would not return to normal unless the Jewish state ceased its deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip.
“You will first stop this oppression. If not, it is not possible to realize normalization between Turkey and Israel,” Erdogan said in the central Anatolian city of Yozgat after a dinner breaking the daily Ramadan fast.
Relations between once-regional allies Israel and Turkey hit an all-time low when 10 Turkish activists died in a 2010 maritime assault by Israeli commandos on Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara in international waters.
The Israeli assault provoked a sharp response from Ankara, which expelled the Israeli ambassador, demanded a formal apology, compensation for the victims, and an end to the blockade on Gaza — which is ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.
Israel and Turkey have been locked in talks for more than a year over compensation, after the Jewish state extended a formal apology to Ankara in a breakthrough brokered by US President Barack Obama.
Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, said Thursday that Turkey’s first two conditions — apology and compensation — appeared to have been fulfilled.
But he said deadly raids on Gaza showed that Israel had no intention of complying with Ankara’s third condition: to end the blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
“Then how can we normalize (ties) with you?” said the premier, who is the clear favorite for an August presidential election.
Erdogan also lashed out at Israel’s “disproportionate use of force against innocent” Palestinians, calling on the world and the United Nations to stop the assault.
He spoke on the phone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal about the Israeli action in Gaza, as well as on intra-Palestinian unity, an official from his office told AFP.