Turkey Sees No Normalization of Israel Ties Without End to Gaza Blockade

ANKARA (Reuters) -

Turkey sees no normalization in ties with Israel unless its conditions for ending the Gaza blockade and compensation for the deaths of 10 Turkish provocateurs are met, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.

The comments dampen hopes of a long-awaited rapprochement. Relations have been in crisis since 2010, when 10 Turkish provocateurs were killed by Israeli commandos, in a raid on a Turkish boat – the Mavi Marmara – which was trying to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“Turkey-Israel relations will not normalize until Israel realizes the three conditions. We have not given up on these,” Kalin said.

Aside from demanding an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings, and compensation for families, Turkey also insists Israel end the blockade of Palestinians living in Gaza.

“Turkey will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached, and the Palestinian people have their own state. There cannot be permanent peace in the region until the Palestinian problem is solved,” Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Expectations that Turkey and Israel will restore normal relations had raised hopes of speedy progress in talks to import Israeli natural gas, potentially a multi-billion-dollar project, particularly since Turkey’s relationship with major energy producer Russia has worsened.

Earlier this month it was revealed that senior officials had met, in an effort to mend fences between the two former allies.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said last week that talks on restoring ties with Israel were continuing.

Asked to respond to the remarks from Ankara, an Israeli official declined to discuss Gaza policy, saying only: “We will not be conducting negotiations through the media.”

Israeli officials have previously described the blockade on Gaza, which is supported by neighboring Egypt, as a necessary means of preventing arms smuggling by Palestinian terrorists.

Israel allows commercial goods into Gaza through its land crossings and said that nearly 128,000 tons of material, or 3,750 truckloads, entered the Gaza Strip last week.