Top US diplomat John Kerry urges Israel and Turkey to re-establish ties

Netanyahu agrees to finalise compensation for deadly attack on flotilla, reinstall ambassador

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 7:49pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 April, 2013, 5:59am

US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday urged Turkey and Israel to restore full relations, saying the move was vital to regional stability but that it was not up to Washington to dictate the conditions of rapprochement.

A reconciliation between Israel and Turkey could improve regional co-ordination to contain spillover from the Syrian civil war, and ease Israel's diplomatic isolation in the Middle East as it faces the challenge of Iran's nuclear programme.

Kerry said it was imperative for Israel to honour its commitment to pay compensation to the families of those who were killed by Israeli marines aboard a Turkish vessel trying to break a naval blockade on Gaza in 2010, and for both countries to put their ambassadors back in place.

The United States' top diplomat was speaking in Istanbul some two weeks after US President Barack Obama brokered a thaw between Turkey and Israel, whose relations were frozen following the killing of nine Turkish citizens in the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

"With respect to the Israel-Turkey track, it is not for the United States to be setting conditions or terms," Kerry said while standing alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"We would like to see this relationship that is important to stability in the Middle East, critical to the peace process itself, we would like to see this relationship get back on track in its full measure," Kerry added.

"To be back on track in its full measure, it is imperative that the compensation component of the agreement be fulfilled, that the ambassadors be returned and that full relationship be embraced, but it's not up to us to discuss the timing," he said.

Israel on March 22 bowed to a long-standing demand by Turkey, once its close strategic partner, to formally apologise for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara. The ship was boarded by Israeli marines who had intercepted the flotilla challenging Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had agreed to conclude a compensation agreement, and he and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to normalise ties, including reinstalling their respective ambassadors.

An Israeli delegation is expected to arrive in Turkey this week to begin discussing the details of the compensation agreement. However, neither country has said when their ambassadors would go back.

Despite Obama having pulled off a diplomatic coup - a three-way telephone call with the Israeli and Turkish prime ministers, who had not spoken since 2011 - some officials in Washington are worried that Turkey might backtrack on the deal.