Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu refused to shake hands with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Munich Security Conference held in early February, Today's Zaman has learned.
Davutoğlu did not shake hands with Barak, thus rejecting an attempt by US and German officials to break the ice between Turkey and Israel during a dinner hosted by Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer on the sidelines of the conference last month.
According to the seating plan prepared by US and German officials, Davutoğlu sat next to Seehofer and US Vice President Joe Biden, while Barak sat opposite the Turkish minister. When officials sitting in Davutoğlu's row started to shake hands with the figures sitting opposite them, the Turkish minister immediately stood up and greeted the Macedonian and Croatian presidents. Seeing Davutoğlu not responding to his attempt to shake his hand, Barak said, “As the distance between the two sides of the table is wide, we could not reach each other's hand.” Davutoğlu replied: “No, the problem is not the size of the table. There will always be a distance between us unless you meet our demands.”
Davutoğlu was referring to Turkey's demand for an official apology from Israel for a deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza in May 2010. Among other demands are reparations to be paid to the families of the passengers killed on the boat and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Israel's flotilla attack resulted in the killing of nine Turkish civilians.
In recent weeks, there has been a rash of reports in the Turkish and Israeli press about efforts to repair relations, including a senior diplomatic meeting earlier this month in Rome and military equipment transfers. Neither government has confirmed these reports.
Last month, Israel agreed to send promised electronic systems to Turkey, which will integrate those systems into its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) military aircraft purchased from the US. In addition, Israel also offered to build an undersea gas pipeline from Israeli-owned offshore gas rigs to Turkey's south coast for Turkish business conglomerate the Zorlu Group.