Israel to return seized Turkish ships 23Jul10 July 24, 2010

Palestine Note -  23 July 2010

Israeli officials said Friday that three Turkish ships seized by Israel during the May 31 raid of a convoy of aid ships bound for Gaza will be returned to Turkey, Reuters reported.

Reuters said the move appears “to be a bid to repair frayed ties with its former ally.”

If that is the case, it may not be enough. Turkey has made it clear that its stipulations for normalizing Turkish-Israeli relations are: a formal apology and payment of compensation to those injured or killed on the “Freedom Flotilla” May 31 from Israel, that Israel submit to an international investigation of the May 31 incident, and an end to the blockade on Gaza.

The raid killed 9 Turkish nationals – one of whom was a US citizen. Ibrahim Kalin, senior advisor to Turkey’s prime minister, told Palestine Note that May 31 was a very serious incident: “It’s the only kind of event where we lost about nine of our citizens in international waters in an attack carried out by a foreign country. …  We’ve never had an incident like this [before] with any of other country.” The strain on relations has been felt in all sectors of the Turkish-Israeli relationship since.

Following the raid of the convoy – called the “Freedom Flotilla” – all ships were towed back to Israel, docked in the Ashdod and Haifa ports, Israeli daily Haaetz said.

Israel had originally said it would only return the ships, owned by non-governmental parties, if Turkey could guarantee the vessels would never again attempt to run the Gaza blockade.

Haaretz said deliberations Thursday stipulated no such condition.

The Israeli Defense Ministry will reportedly coordinate with a Turkish delegation “to see a fleet of tow vessels brought over from Turkey in the coming days to pick up the three ships,” Haaretz continued.

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