Families of the nine Turkish activists killed on the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010 spoke out on Saturday against compensation talks between Turkey and Israel, saying the Jewish state must first fully lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The relatives also said they would not drop lawsuits they had filed against the former Israeli military commanders they hold responsible for the deaths.
In 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the ship to prevent it from breaching Israel's naval blockade and reaching Gaza's shores. In the clash that ensued, nine activists were killed. The incident sparked a dramatic deterioration in the diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, until Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially apologized to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month, at the request of U.S. President Barack Obama. The apology included an agreement to compensate the injured and the relatives of the dead. In return, Turkey was expected to withdraw legal action against Israeli soldiers.
The families' announcement came days before an Israeli delegation was due in Turkey to discuss compensation for the victims, further complicating U.S. efforts to normalize ties between Turkey and Israel, two U.S. allies Obama regards as anchors of stability in an increasingly turbulent Middle East.
Despite accepting the apology and agreeing to the normalization of ties, Turkish leaders have since warned that the restoration of full diplomatic ties with Israel would be dependent on it ending all commercial restrictions against the Palestinians.
In a statement read on board the Mavi Marmara, now anchored in Istanbul, the families said they opposed Turkey opening discussions with Israel until all restrictions on Palestinians were removed.
"While no steps have been taken to lift the severe restrictions or to amend the rights of the Palestinians who are oppressed, these meetings for compensation are an insult to our martyrs," said Cigdem Topcuoglu, widow of Cetin Topcuoglu. Talks to work out compensation payment were scheduled to begin on Monday.
The relatives vowed not to withdraw complaints filed against four Israeli military officials who are being tried in Turkey in absentia. Turkish prosecutors have demanded life in prison for the officers, although it is unlikely that any sentence could be carried out.
Israel previously refused to apologize, saying its soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.
Turkish leaders have presented the Israeli apology as a diplomatic triumph over Israel, and in an apparent bid to increase his leverage, Erdogan has pledged to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza at the end of this month.