“Turkey’s basic demands have been met; we got what we wanted,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said March 22 in an interview with public broadcaster TRT. Davutoğlu said Israel’s apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara raid was the result of arduous negotiations that lasted three years. “What appears to you as a surprise is an effort that has been pursued and forged gradually for three years,” Davutoğlu said, noting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s key role in reaching an agreement on a joint apology text between the two parties following his visit to Ankara on March 1.
“When Kerry visited Turkey we talked about these matters very openly. We voiced our three demands [apology, compensation and lifting of the Gaza blockade] if Turkey’s contribution to the peace process in the Middle East and the normalization of ties with Israel was wanted. I spoke with Kerry six times over the last week. We talked about the negotiations on the texts [of the apology],” he said. Davutoğlu noted that during the last week Turkey had only been in contact with U.S. officials, who mediated the final agreement before U.S. President Barack Obama’s Israel visit. “We agreed that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu would call the Turkish prime minister accompanied by President Obama. Each word of the agreement has been studied. We worked on it until the morning and at noon we got a clearer picture.”
Approval from both Palestinian governments
Davutoğlu also said that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called both the Hamas prime minister of Gaza and the leader of the Palestinian Authority to get their approval before accepting Israel’s formal apology for the Mavi Marmara raid. He explained that the conversations took place moments before Netanyahu’s call. He added that Erdoğan also called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. “The tripartite meeting started afterward. Netanyahu began, then passed the phone to Obama. I did not count the minutes, but the call lasted between 20 and 30 minutes,” Davutoğlu said.
The Israeli raid of the Mavi Marmara ship, which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on May 31, 2010, claimed the lives of nine Turkish citizens on board the vessel. Turkey froze its diplomatic ties with Israel requesting a formal apology before any step could be taken for a normalization.
Apology ‘grave mistake’: Former Israeli Foreign Minister
Meanwhile, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, who for years opposed an Israeli apology, called Netanyahu’s move a “grave mistake”. “Such an apology demoralises IDF soldiers,” said Lieberman, who now heads the parliamentary foreign and defence committee.
However, armed forces chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz welcomed the move, saying he hoped it would boost the countries’ security and strategic ties.
Newly sworn-in Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, who in the past was opposed to an official apology or direct compensation, on MArch 22 supported the apology, his spokesman told Agence France-Presse.