Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has resurfaced his plan to realize his postponed visit to Gaza and demand that Israel lift its naval blockade over the Hamas-ruled coastal strip as a precondition to restore ties, the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reported Friday.
Erdoğan told journalists on a plane en route to Ankara from Berlin that he has plans to visit Gaza soon and that Turkish and Gazan authorities are in talks to coordinate the trip.
According to Zaman, Erdogan welcomed the Qatari emir’s recent trip to Gaza and said he was planning to call and congratulate him.
Zaman reported that Erdoğan said he had offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join him on a trip to Gaza and that Abbas was "warm to the suggestion."
Erdoğan planned to visit Gaza last September during his regional tour that also included Egypt. But he had to cancel his plans for unknown reasons, the Turkish paper reported.
The report stated that Erdoğan also reiterated his demand that Israel lift its blockade over Gaza, and said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked him to take steps to normalize ties with Israel.
Israel, Turkey ties hit rock bottom when Israeli commandos intercepted the Turkish IHH vessel Mavi Marmara in May 2010 which tried to run the blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks were killed after they attacked the Israeli soldiers with chains, bars, and knives. The Israeli commandos had initially landed on the vessel with paintball guns but shot their way out of danger with live fire when their lives were placed at risk. Turkey demands an apology for the incident, compensation to the families of the victims and a lifting of the Gaza blockade. Israel has expressed regret for the loss of life and says its soldiers acted in self-defense. Israel also refuses lift the blockade on Gaza as long as the strip's terrorist rulers refuse to abandon violence.
Israel has reached out to Turkey to normalize ties but Turkey says all three demands must be realized before relations are restored.
“It is impossible that our relations will be fixed unless these demands are realized,” Erdoğan said, according to Zaman. “We said this to Merkel.”
To normalize ties, Erdoğan added, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched “very weird” diplomats for talks, Zaman quoted him as saying.
“We had talks with them. I also told them these three demands. In addition, I told them that all three demands must be realized. I clearly told them that Turkey is not open to options that include offering apology and compensation but not lifting the Gaza blockade,” Erdoğan said.