Following Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc’s disclosure that negotiations with Israel for compensation to the victims of the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident have reached their final stage, details of a possible agreement are emerging.
A Turkey-Israel accord, referred to as “normalization” in the international community, will be a binding legal text requiring approval by the Turkish parliament.
Immediately after the signing of the accord, official contracts and cooperation between the two countries will resume and both sides will send their ambassadors.
Western sources say that the negotiations set the compensation at $23 million, but in return the Turkish side is expected to waive lawsuits brought against Israeli soldiers and their commanders. Israel had started the compensation bargaining by offering a few million and Turkey had started by demanding $40 million. The compromise figure was reached thanks to intensive US efforts. The entire sum will be paid by the Israeli government.
In the framework of the accord, Turkey will be allowed to extend direct humanitarian assistance to Gaza through its official organs and the Cooperation and Coordination Agency of Turkey (TIKA) and undertake infrastructure work.
The normalization of relations with Israel is important for Ankara to overcome the negative mood against Turkey in the US Congress, and to remove some of the complications with NATO. Since the Mavi Marmara incident, Ankara has refused to participate in NATO’s joint exercises with Israel and has been vetoing Israel’s special relations with the alliance. But NATO’s general tendency to develop close cooperation with Israel was isolating Turkey in the alliance.
Both countries strongly believe that a resumption of military and diplomatic relations at a time of a raging civil war in Syria and continuing instability in the Middle East have strategic importance. But the details of the accord contain elements that could be problematic in the domestic political arenas of two countries that are both in election atmospheres.
This is why the agreement, although agreed on five weeks ago, is yet to be signed. Contrary to popular belief, the delay is not because of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan but because of the attitude of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although the delegations that concluded the agreement have a final text, Turkish and Western sources say that the Israeli prime minister has not yet given his final blessing for the $23 million compensation.
According to observers of Israel, Netanyahu is waiting for the results of the March 30 elections in Turkey and to see how the court proceedings in Istanbul today on the Mavi Marmara case will proceed. If there is an accord, then the Humanitarian Relief Foundation of Turkey [the sponsor of the Mavi Marmara relief operation] and families of the victims of Mavi Marmara will renounce their cases in Turkish and international courts against Israeli soldiers.
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