Report: Turkey seeks Israeli approval to soften UN flotilla criticism

Bülent Yıldırım, the president of the Turkish charity group İHH, speaks to the media in İstanbul on Jan. 24, 2011. The UN report, due to be released in the coming weeks, reportedly highlights the relations between the Turkish government and the İHH.

June 26, 2011, Sunday/ 12:43:00

Turkey has asked Israel to agree to changes in a UN report on an Israeli raid on an aid flotilla on May 31, 2010 because the report is expected to criticize Turkey for the bloody incident, an Israeli news report said on Sunday.

The Turks are "very worried" about the harsh criticism of Turkey they expect the report to contain, and want Israel to agree to a softened version as part of a package deal to end the crisis between the two countries over the flotilla, which took place in May 2010, Israeli newspaper Haaretz, quoting a senior Israeli official, said.

Eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed by Israeli commandos during the bloody raid. Turkey, once a close ally of Israel, has scaled down its relations with the Jewish state since then and wants Israel to apologize for the relations to normalize. Israeli media have recently reported that Turkish and Israeli officials have been holding secret talks on normalization of relations. Turkish officials have neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

Haaretz said the Turkish request for Israel's agreeing to a toned-down version of the UN report was conveyed to the Israeli side during a secret meeting between Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon in Geneva last week.

Sinirlioğlu told Ya'alon that Turkish-Israeli relations would return to normal if the report is toned down in line with Turkish demands and the Turkish ambassador would finally return to Tel Aviv after a months long hiatus.

A draft of the report, due to be released within two weeks, was given to Israel and Turkey about six weeks ago. The UN committee, according to the Haaretz report, determined that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is in line with international law, and therefore Israeli actions to stop the flotilla were also legal.

According to a senior government official in Jerusalem, the report criticizes the Turkish government and highlights the relationship between the government and the Turkish charity group İHH, the group that owned the raided ship, Mavi Marmara.

The report also states that, while Israel Defense Forces soldiers acted in self-defense, they used disproportionate force that led to the death of nine Turkish citizens, according to Haaretz. The report recommends that Israel pay compensation to the families of the dead and injured Turkish citizens, which Israel has already said it is willing to do.