Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insisted on Thursday that Israel must meet his government's conditions for normalization of ties between the former allies, asserting that otherwise mediators' efforts to broker a deal will be in vain.
Erdoğan, speaking in Kiev after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, said Turkey has reminded anyone interested in mediating peace with Israel of its three conditions: A formal apology for a deadly Israeli raid on May 31, 2010, on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which resulted in deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish American, compensation for families of those killed in the raid and the lifting of the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
“Normalization is out of the question if any of these [conditions] are not met. If all these three conditions are met, then we would say ‘yes' to mediators. Otherwise, mediators should spare the effort,” he said.
Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended its military ties with Turkey in protest of the Israeli refusal to offer a formal apology for the Mavi Marmara incident. The ship was part of an international flotilla trying to deliver aid to Gaza in breach of the Israeli blockade.
Speaking at the Kiev press conference, Erdoğan also condemned a Tuesday attack in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the killing of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other US diplomats.
Erdoğan said the killing was “very troubling” and added that he strongly condemned attacks that target diplomats. “We have always supported efforts in fighting terrorism. We are a country that has been currently fighting terrorism, and we know very well what it means,” Erdoğan said.
President Abdullah Gül has also condemned the killing of the US ambassador and expressed his condolences. In a statement issued on Wednesday, Gül strongly condemned the attack and expressed condolences to his US counterpart, Barack Obama.
In a separate statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also said it strongly condemns the attack and stands by the American people in solidarity. It added that Turkey expects that the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible for the death of the American ambassador to justice.
Erdoğan was in Kiev to co-chair a meeting of the Turkey-Ukraine High Level Strategic Council together with Yanukovych. Addressing the gathering, Erdoğan said Turkey and Ukraine planned to conclude a free trade deal by the end of the year, something that he said would significantly help efforts to increase bilateral trade. The volume of trade currently stands at $6.5 billion, and the two countries aim to boost it to $20 billion by 2015.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız, Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz and Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Binali Yıldırım accompanied Erdoğan during the visit.