“It is not remotely possible for us to agree to a six-month delay,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu from Sarajevo, where he was visiting as part of his tour of the Balkans during Eid al-Fitr. “For us the deadline [for the formal apology from Israeli officials] is the day the UN report gets released, or we resort to Plan B,” said the minister without further elaborating on what might constitute the premises of the alternative “B” route.
The UN-led Palmer Report, initially expected to be released in February 2011, has already seen multiple delays that Turkish officials blame on Israeli leaders who have taken one step forward and two steps back on the issue of an apology and compensation demanded by Turkey in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara raid that brought about a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Although not conclusively determined, the UN report is expected to be released by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon some time in early September and shed light on the investigation carried out concerning the deadly flotilla raid that is the reason of the year-long impasse between the old allies in the region.
Davutoğlu acknowledged that Turkey had accepted previous requests from Israel for further delays in the report in the belief that Israel would keep its pledge that “Israel is ready to negotiate to meet Turkey's demands,” while also noting that all previous requests had come from Israeli officials. “We waited patiently for Israel to come to a decision, but it looks like the country is having a hard time arriving at one. Turkey has determined its stance on the issue and notified them [Israel] that we will not be accepting this,” Davutoğlu said in words that clarified the end of the delay process for the country, but noted that the final decision on the release date was ultimately the UN's call.
“We are not in a position to tell the UN to release or delay it, but we will do as necessary when the UN finally does release it,” Davutoğlu said in addition, but underscored that the report would not be the work of either side and that it could include parts that are unacceptable to Turkey. The media also reported prior to the latest delay in early August that the report carried bits that could be unfavorable for both sides, making it a better option for the countries to clinch an agreement before it gets even more difficult to come to a rapprochement.
The Mavi Marmara crisis erupted when Israeli commandoes aggressively raided the Mavi Marmara ship, carrying humanitarian aid, on the high seas of the Mediterranean on May 31, 2010, killing one Turkish-American and eight Turkish peace activists on board to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza, a region under an Israeli blockade. Turkey in return demands that Israel issue a formal apology, pay compensation and lift the Gaza blockade before it agrees to normalize relations with the country.
‘Turkey will do what is necessary'
Highlighting Turkey's determination to switch to the so-called Plan B, Davutoğlu said: “We have been told that there has been a consensus, including an apology and other issues, which means we have made progress in the negotiations. But when it came to the final move, Israel always takes a step back at the last minute because of debates among its coalition.”
“Turkey will be imposing sanctions that are well known by Israel and some other international parties,” Davutoğlu firmly noted as he stated that Turkey is determined in its clear stance and ready to act accordingly.
The news of the Israeli request for a six-month delay in the report emerged on Monday through an Israeli television channel that reported Netanyahu was in touch with US officials to ask for their backing in its request to the UN secretary-general for a delay. Claims have surfaced that while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are inching toward an agreement with Turkey to issue an apology, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon oppose the idea, a situation that threatens political stability in Israel.
The Mavi Marmara aid ship, an attempt to carry aid to Gazans living under an Israeli blockade, was a nongovernmental initiative by peace activist to run a blockade that has endangered civilians, motivated by the country's pledge to support Palestine. Although the Turkish-Israeli debate on the flotilla raid is closely related to the countries' stances on Palestine, Davutoğlu noted that the Palestinian bid for the recognition of its sovereignty in the UN to come in September was “a whole different process” from the Palmer Report, the outcome of which may be in confirmation of the Israeli blockade that Turkey along with many other UN nations find in defiance of international law.
“The two issues are separate matters; they are based on different grounds in principle. Here [in the flotilla raid] the matter is the brutal killing of our citizens on high seas, and it is the natural right of Turkey to call [Israel] to account,” Davutoğlu finally noted, while he affirmed that Turkey will make every effort to ensure the recognition of Palestine in the UN.